Saturday, 21 January 2012

Facing up to the realisation that it's me that's bonkers - not my kids.

It is fair to say that I'm a bit of a worrier, potentially verging into the lot of a worrier category. I am prone to diagnosis of both physical and mental medical issues in both of my children. Over the years I have convinced myself that A had leukemia, septicemia, obsessive compulsive disorder and anxiety disorder. For C the concerns have been mainly in the area of social disorders, since he is, and always has been, in rude physical health, but he is a little bit, "socially muted" (as one of Mr M's lecturers once described him, much to my great and prolonged amusement). Although, actually, scrub that, I recently took C to the doctors because I convinced myself he had scoliosis (I know all about that 'cos of Judy Blume). It turned out he didn't, and that a book I read in 1990 and can barely remember cannot really be relied upon for accuracy in a diagnosis of curvature of the spine.

Anyway, it doesn't really help my hypochondria by-proxy that at work, one of my responsibilities is looking at all the brochures for resources that get sent to us, and deciding if we need anything from them. I am very good at deciding what is necessary for the department, but not so good at resisting the urge to go home and order all of the things in the catalogue from Amazon for my kids. This week we had a brochure entitled "SEAL Storytelling Resources". I knew I was in trouble from the first page. I had to work very hard to resist buying Socially Talented Children and The Feelings Artbook for A and C. But resist I had to, because they both cost an arm and several legs. However, I was unable to resist the urge to buy Willy and the Wobbly House: A Story for Children who are Anxious or Obsessional by Margot Sunderland. Looking at this in the cold light of an idyllic Saturday morning, I am aware that neither of my kids are more anxious or obsessional than most neurologically typical children. However, it had not been a good day, and I decided that it could not do any harm.

A couple of years ago, A had a period of being extremely worried about absolutely everything. I bought What to do When you Worry too Much by Dawn Huebner, and it was a revelation. It is basically DIY CBT for kids, but it was SO effective, that I have almost forgotten that A was ever like it, and when she becomes overwrought now, I am almost surprised by her behaviour.

I decided that in order to prevent the backslide I felt was starting this week, I should fend things off with a good story and the Wobbly House seemed to fit. Surprising A thought it was "a bit boring". C absolutely LOVED it, and took it to bed with him, eventually falling asleep with it on his chest. Willy lives in a very wobbly world, and never feels calm and still. His friend Tom is obsessed with straight lines, and finds it impossible to let go and become excited or to play properly. They both go to the magical world of the puddle people, where Willy is taken to the still waters and rocked to sleep, and Tom is taken to a pool with bubbles and waterslides. They go back there whenever they feel like they are sliding back into their old ways. C enjoyed it as a story, and it was useful for me to realise that however worried, anxious or stressed A and C might become, they do have a safe place at home, where they are warm, fed and loved, even by a mother who worries and shouts a little bit too much. And my house DEFINITELY does not look like one presided over by a person suffering from OCD.

There are several other books in the series which are designed for children with various conditions. From the basis of this book, they seem to be well written stories, where the issues and solutions can be drawn out, rather than the child being dictated to or patronised. And they are an excellent affirmation of the positive power of storytelling.

1 comment:

  1. Margot Sunderland was a speaker at an NCT conference I went to a couple of years ago. I have never heard a more interesting speaker in my life. She is so knowledgeable and the stuff she said about how lack of affection can mentally affect babies was so powerful.