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    Explaining things to an eight year old


    I am having a family issue and wonder if anybody has any experience with this or suggestions.

    I haven’t seen my eight year old nephew since the middle of August. He is the oldest by a few years of my seven nieces and nephews and really the only one old enough to understand my injury. Well, I guess he understands as well as an eight year old can be expected to. We are quite close and I used to take him all with me all the time to do things like ski or skate or canoe. My injury hit him very hard. He had a hard time sleeping and began acting up in school right after it happened. The rest of my family has done a good job with trying to help him cope and we all thought he was doing better. He is on a break from school so my dad decided to bring him for a surprise visit.

    He has been helping with the set up of the apartment I will be moving into. And he just helped build a ramp system at my parent’s house (he was the water and beer fetcher). He seemed to understand what the ramp was for when it was built about two weeks ago. And he visited me in the hospital regularly until I started a different rehab program. He knew about the chair and the vent and me not being able to get up and do things. I know my sister has been working very hard with him to help him understand that I am not going to get “better.” He has a bunch of books and she has been taking him to the occasional wheelchair floor hockey and basketball games where he has had the chance to meet other adults and kids in chairs. Everybody **thought** he was doing okay with it.


    I was very surprised and happy when he came running into my room yesterday morning. But things very quickly fell apart. He became extremely angry when he saw me in my chair and began yelling. Before they came, my dad sat him down and made sure he knew I was going to be in my chair just to make sure. But he’s only eight, so who knows what is going on in his mind and what he is actually understanding. He has a certain logic about this and I can't blame him for concluding that I should be better or why else did I need to go away.

    He was so upset to see me like this and that in turn made me very upset. He did eventually calm down and we went outside for a bit and things got a bit better. But not much because I could see how angry and confused he was and nothing I could say was making him feel better. He had another blow out with my parents later in the evening after they left. He came to see me this morning and he was calm but basically giving me the silent treatment and I just couldn’t say or do anything to bring him around. Now my parents are feeling horrible because this was something they thought would be good for everybody. I don’t think it was a mistake for him to come for the visit. Nobody anticipated that he was going to react this way.

    So does anybody have any suggestions on what I can do or say to him to get us through this? He is here for two more days and I want to have some resolution so he doesn’t go home sad and angry. I know kids are very resilient and I have no doubt that he will be fine. I was hoping to see him again this evening, but we all agree that a bit of a break is needed so he won’t be coming back until tomorrow evening.

    Any suggestions?

    #2
    well Adults some times are not verry compftable around sci.he is only 8 years old. i would wait till he comes around and is able to cope with your injury. I guess when it hits a loved one we are never ready. we may understand about sci but when it hits home we are not able to cope with it easyly. Let him come around at his time.i think he is scarred of the unknown.But i think with time he will be okay and you 2 can be close again and share diffrent things.

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      #3
      OJ, i have a 7 year old nephew, but my scenario is a bit different. i had my accident when he was 3 so he only knows me being in the chair. it didn't take him long to understand, well sorta, but he is very intelligent for his age. he is at the point of asking many, many questions and trying to figure out how to get me involved with his activities. he understands that i can't do things without my chair, it's just funny how he tries to find ways for me to. a few months ago he went to a local waterpark and had a blast. a few days later, he went into my sisters and bro-in-laws bedroom all serious and asking that when i get better, can he take me to the waterpark to ride the slides... my sis called me and we were just in tears bc of the many comments and ideas that goes on in his head.

      his bedroom is upstairs and i obviously can't get there. he has designed a pully system over the railing and up the stairs whereas i am sliding on a mat on my back.. we got a huge laugh from that one, but not in front of him. he was just way too serious. last weekend he drew a small book documenting my accident. it had me riding my motorcycle, having a wreck, in the hospital, and then in my chair.. it was awesome and i think my artistic talents may have carried over to him.. i hope. we went to Six Flags yesterday and he rode around in my lap a lot. for the most part, i think he is doing great with it. my sister works with him a lot when he sees me making sure that he understands. i think that his parents have their duties to work with your nephew as he is older than mine when this happened, atleast this nephew. i have another nephew that was 6 at the time. i lived with my brother and his family for around 7 months after my accident. he was/is a hoot. he is in accelarated everything and has so much energy.. he took it great. being there every night really helped so i can say that being close to him helped deal with the realities of a wheelchair. every night he would come blazing thru the doors to ask gawd knows what. i just answered and watched his mind process the info..

      all i can say is give good info. to your sister and just be yourself. he will ask a lot of questions and you will cry over what he asks. there will be sad and very happy times to come. i know that i probly haven't helped much, but just wanted to share my experience. good luck with him..





      Life isn't like a bowl of cherries or peaches. It's more like a jar of jalapenos--What you do today might burn your ass tomorrow.

      If you ain't laughing, you ain't living, baby. Carlos Mencia

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        #4
        This is a hard one. Most of the kids in my family have done well but my injury is lower than yours. I don't know if that makes it easier or even makes a difference. Kids handle things over time. He may be upset because you were close befor eand he feels different. It also makes children feel very helpless. THey are used to adults being able to fix things and protect them from bad things. When a "bad" thing happens to an adult the feel a shift in their world. I think once he has been around you a while he will adjust. Esp if you involve him in some kind of activity like riding him around a bit or let him "work" on your chair. Even get out and let him try it if possible. I think 8 yrs old is plenty old enough to understand. My daughter was 8 when this happened. At first she was reserved around me. Then she went through a phase of wishing it was her. She slowly came around and is doing very well. I went to her class when I got home and talked to them about wheelchairs and let them ask questions. After that she seemed proud. My son was 5 when I was injured. He understands but still thinks I might get up. ( I hope he's right) He gets angry because I can't wrestle on the floor as much and we can't explore the woods. He is in charge of removing and cleaning my casters. He seems to like that. He says remember when you were a standing mom? It's not about walking to him but about standing. AND the best part is he is allowed to climb on counters now..... lol
        If you can't handle me at my worst, then you sure as hell don't deserve me at my best.


        Sometimes it is easier to widen doors than it is to open minds.

        Comment


          #5
          Originally posted by orangejello
          I haven’t seen my eight year old nephew since the middle of August. He is the oldest by a few years of my seven nieces and nephews and really the only one old enough to understand my injury. Well, I guess he understands as well as an eight year old can be expected to.
          My 8 yr old niece has been able to explain to other people what SCI is for a couple of yrs now. She would tell you that I hurt my back in a motorcycle accident and that my spinal cord was injured so now my brain can't talk to my legs. She knows that I have almost no feeling below my chest, but that I experience pain due to my injury. My 6 yr old niece doesn't go into as much detail, but she gets the gist of it.

          Kids know what you tell them. I don't know the ages of the other kids, but I wouldn't be surprised if they weren't able to grasp that you've been hurt and won't walk (etc) anymore.

          That being said, both of my nieces grew up with me using a wheelchair and have been talked to about it since they started asking about the chair and why I don't walk. That started when they began talking and it seems like every 6 mos or year they ask a few more questions or even ones that have already been answered. It's like they're checking to see if anything has changed or to get a bit more detail appropriate to their age and development. They both love to push my chair, ride in my lap (although they're too big for that now) and they like to sit in my chair when I'm not in it. They know that I do things differently than AB people do, but that seems fine with them. They are sad for me that I can't do everything that I want to do and that I am in pain all the time, but mostly they just treat me like Tia. (that's "Aunt" in Spanish)

          We are quite close and I used to take him all with me all the time to do things like ski or skate or canoe. My injury hit him very hard. He had a hard time sleeping and began acting up in school right after it happened.
          I'm sorry to hear of your injury and sorry for the pain that it is causing your family. I know how hard this is and it's really wonderful that your family is supportive of each other. The fact that everyone is concerned for how this impacts the little ones says a lot about you.

          Everybody **thought** he was doing okay with it.
          Well, how OK are you with it? I mean, are you totally over your adjustment and happy go lucky again? This takes a long time for most people and there are stages and setbacks and ups and downs. It's not surprising to me that one who is very close to you is still struggling with this pain. It's been less than a year. I've been handicapped for almost 2 decades and the members of my family still break down and cry sometimes.

          He became extremely angry when he saw me in my chair and began yelling. Before they came, my dad sat him down and made sure he knew I was going to be in my chair just to make sure. But he’s only eight, so who knows what is going on in his mind and what he is actually understanding. He has a certain logic about this and I can't blame him for concluding that I should be better or why else did I need to go away.
          Is that what he was yelling about? Was he angry that you went away for awhile, but that you didn't get better?

          So does anybody have any suggestions on what I can do or say to him to get us through this? He is here for two more days and I want to have some resolution so he doesn’t go home sad and angry. I know kids are very resilient and I have no doubt that he will be fine. I was hoping to see him again this evening, but we all agree that a bit of a break is needed so he won’t be coming back until tomorrow evening.
          You need to talk to him about how he's feeling. I would tell him that it's OK to be angry. Hel, I bet a lot of the adults are angry too, but they are more able to control the expression of that anger and frustration. Kids just vent. I wouldn't try to act like everything is OK or convince the kid that he shouldn't feel the way he feels. Like I said, this adjustment can take some time. Don't shut him out or stay away from him though. He needs to see you and spend time with you to learn what this new relationship is going to be like. You both do.

          I think adults underestimate kids too often and leave them out of supposedly "grown-up" things. This is life. This affects your whole family, including the kids. Mostly I think you just need to be honest with him and let him be honest with you. It won't be easy for anyone, but the mere fact that you're reaching out to others for advice in dealing with this indicates to me that you guys will find a way to deal with this sooner rather than later.

          C.

          Comment


            #6
            I have to agree with Tiger racing on this one OJ. Kids are smarter than we think they are. They pick up on situations that we dont even realize exist.

            I have found that the more honest I am and the more I try to explain in age appropriate language, the better off my daughter has been. As you know my past, each surgery has been hard to explain. Each surgery there was worry that mom might not make it home. Even though that is not the case...the worry was there. As you see with your nephew, the worries are transformed into acting out and irrational behavior. I have been through this several times and in situations not even related to SCI. Death and sickness always causes my daughters mind to go haywire....any kind of major loss.

            I think things will get better when your nephews and nieces are able to spend more time with you in a place other than a hospital. They are probably all still worried because you havent actually got to come home. There is no worse fear than the fear of the unknown even for us adults.

            The worse thing you can do is shelter him and make him think everything is going to be just like it once was. My daughter has only known me as disabled. It is harder for my high school classmates to accept this than it is for her. I still see people who freak out on me.

            My best advice is to be honest. If you are frustrated, angry, or sad, he needs to see that you experience this too. He needs to see that it is ok to let all this out. I have struggled with KC bottling things up. That does far more worse damage than screaming yelling and venting. We as parents try to protect our kids from heartache and in my own experience I have come to realize I am not protecting her. I am just delaying the pain.

            ((((((OJ))))))))
            sending you internet hugs

            I hope things get better for him soon....I know how much all your nieces and nephews mean to you. BTW: that says alot about you....how special you are!
            T12-L2; Burst fracture L1: Incomplete walking with AFO's and cane since 1989

            My goal in life is to be as good of a person my dog already thinks I am. ~Author Unknown

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              #7
              OJ,

              My husband is a C3-C4 complete quad with a trach. He managed to get off the vent, but still has the trach. Our sons were 6 and 8 when he was injured. In the beginning, they were very hesitant and stand-offish especially when their dad was in the hospital and rehab. They had to find a new way to interact with him. I think that is just takes time, but I would suggest not pushing him. Especially when my husband was on the vent, I would try to get them to sit with him, read his lips, etc., but they just sort of stood back. After being around him more I think that they weren't as scared. They just needed their own time and their own way to figure it out. I agree with others about being honest and open. Try talking and telling him that even though you can't do the same things you can do different things with him. My boys really liked playing Connect 4 with their dad. They would make their move, and he would say like "row 4" and they would drop in his piece for him. He even let them win every once in awhile. They like to watch movies with him and listen to books on tape. They have found many new things to do together. We also have many nieces and nephews and all have come around and interact well with my husband. It just takes a little time. Give him the few days and see what happens. Don't feel hopeless just yet. All the hospital and rehab stuff is a little scary for the kids. He will come around, I'm sure. Good luck!

              Trish

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                #8
                Yep, just takes time. If you can think of a way to interact while making him feel useful I think it would help.

                For instance, play checkers. Have him move your game pieces under your direction. (Watch him like a hawk. 8 year olds cheat!)

                Kids are resilient. Just please don't let the family punish him for his reactions. He's entitled to them, and we can't understand what he's thinking. I doubt he can articulate it.

                It's probably something selfish, had you promised to take him snowboarding or mountain climbing? Kids are supremely self-absorbed. It's not that they're bad, it's just how they're wired.

                Try the checkers is my advice.

                LOL, just saw the person above me also recommended playing games. Games are the best way to a kids heart, I swear. That's what I did with my 11 year old when I was in rehab. This year (he's 17 now) he was in the hospital for 10 days. I was up there every day playing dominoes.
                Last edited by betheny; 16 Oct 2006, 3:39 PM.
                Blog:
                Does This Wheelchair Make My Ass Look Fat?

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                  #9
                  Thanks everybody for your thoughts on this. The replies have been very helpful.

                  My rehab staff is helping me set up an outing with him for tomorrow evening. I am hoping we can go to a pet store. He has been helping take care of my cats and my dog since my injury. I was thinking we could go shopping for some toys and treats. I don't know if that will help or if it will be a mistake. He is coming over tonight and I am hoping we can maybe get a little privacy. Maybe he will open up to me and I can understand what he is thinking. He has been calling me a liar and telling me he hates me. Yikes. I know they are just words and he doesn't mean them. But it's tough to see him like this.

                  Betheny I agree that it's probably just some little kid brain wiring thing. I don't know if he overheard and/or misunderstood something somebody said. Whatever it was, he had an idea stuck in his mind and everybody missed it until things boiled over. Nobody wants to punish him. We are just trying to come up with some way to make him feel better. Your advice on the checkers is noted . It is admittedly difficult for me to "do" things with him right now. And of course, the things he wants us to be doing just aren't going to happen. We were doing things like watching movies and him reading books to me before I left for rehab. And he loved helping out with things like getting me a drink. But any suggestions I gave this weekend were met with firm resistance. I will try again tonight.

                  Tiger racer maybe I worded my post a bit awkwardly. When I said we all thought he was okay with it, I was referring to the fact we thought he understood my condition was permanent--not that he was okay with the injury itself or that I expected him to be happy go lucky and completely adjusted. I don't know if that is ever going to happen. I am doing okay but things are still very bad all around when it comes to me and the people in my life coping with this. Hopefully time will help. You had lots of good points for me to ponder.

                  Taj your post was very helpful for me as your husband's injury is similar to mine. I am very happy to hear that your boys and your nieces and nephews have adjusted so well. That makes me very happy. As did hearing about the experiences of daisy, jeff, and addiesue (your kids are gorgeous!). And also thanks annamarie. I hope I didn't miss anybody. I felt much better after reading these replies.

                  I'll let you know how it goes.
                  Last edited by orangejello; 16 Oct 2006, 6:50 PM.

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                    #10
                    Getting to this a bit late, but I hope all went reasonably well, OJ.

                    It occurs to me that he might be upset with you because it's incomprehensible to him that you really cannot move around or feel things, as that's completely outside his personal experience. So you must be faking it; that angers him.

                    I expect a lot of ABs have that feeling of denial in the back of their mind - I sometimes do, even though I know damn well what the true state of things is. And a kid doesn't necessarily have the intellectual capacity and insight to comprehend the real effects of SCI.
                    - Richard

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                      #11
                      Originally posted by rfbdorf
                      It occurs to me that he might be upset with you because it's incomprehensible to him that you really cannot move around or feel things, as that's completely outside his personal experience. So you must be faking it; that angers him.
                      Hey Richard I think you hit the nail on the head here. I was able to spend some one on one time with him last night. And although it was like pulling teeth, he finally opened up. Like you suggest, it's just incomprehensible to him . He understands what the chair is for. But he can't seem to grasp that I can't move. After two months of him not seeing me, I sense we are back to where we were six months ago when I first got well enough for him to visit regularly. He was saying things like "Why can't you just try to move?" I guess despite everybody's good intentions since my injury, there are some gaps in his logic and understanding that need serious addressing. Even though he has stopped yelling (to everybody's relief--he was on the verge of being banned from visiting), he's still very angry at me. Not just me to be sure, but I am his main target.

                      I hate to say it, but I almost feel that maybe we all assumed he understood more than he actually did. Like I mentioned, my sister has taken him to some floor hockey and basketball games. So his conclusion was "those people in wheelchairs can use their hands, why can't you" And the basketball league is an open one so it has a number of able bodied players who play in borrowed chairs. So he wants to know why some of the players can just walk away after the game. His conclusion: maybe that means I would only need a wheelchair sometimes too. It's a catch 22. My sister was taking him to these games to help him meet people and become more comfortable with things. And I think it has been a very good thing for him and his six year old brother. But obviously we need to re-think how we are explaining things to him. It's not just these games. He's been picking up things all over the place. It's like there are some disconnects between what he does actually understand and what he thinks he understands. If that makes sense. He's a bright kid. I know that he understands more than it seems I am giving him credit for. But I need to re-think how to deal this.

                      We are going out to the pet store tonight so we will see how that goes. The talk last night seem to make things marginally better. I am sure he will be okay. I am just still really stressed about it. It's like no matter what you do to try and make things better, it just creates more heartache for everybody involved.
                      Last edited by orangejello; 17 Oct 2006, 4:39 PM.

                      Comment


                        #12
                        Because you're clearly very intelligent, I think that you'll be able to work it out with him, but I suspect it will take a long, long time - if ever - before he really groks your new condition. You will also get "aren't you well yet?" from him.
                        Like I said, I sometimes forget, and I'll, say, tickle the sole of my wfe's foot when I'm dressing her, expecting a reaction, and then I'm disapppointed when I realize that no, everything's just the same. And I have the maturity and capacity to know better, apart from having been with her much, much more than your nephew has been with you.
                        I'm sure that somewhere, sometime, these things have been studied. But we all have to learn on our own.
                        I'll be interested in hearing how the pet store visit goes.
                        - Richard

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                          #13
                          oops - double post!

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                            #14
                            We did manage to get out to the pet store as planned. I am very glad we were able to because it was touch and go for a number of reasons. I would say it was a mixed results kind of outing.

                            He was very excited to go and was very eager to help get things ready so we could leave the hospital. But it’s a fairly big effort to get things organized and ready for me to go out anywhere. Plus the weather was not great which was complicating things a bit. So his enthusiasm quickly turned to impatience and he started getting angry that we needed to do so many things before we left. Not quite a full blown tantrum, but close. I, or somebody else tried to explain to him what we were doing as we got ready but that seemed to be upsetting him more so I just left it. He was impressed with going out in the van but again the smallest things seemed to make him either very angry or very sad. I know I am making him out to be a little monster here. He’s not the misbehaving type. It was just his moods kept changing and I was never sure what to say in case it set him off. I did entrust him with my wallet and bank card code and had him write up a list of what we were going to buy. We had every single pet in our family, including fish, to buy for so that kept him semi-occupied. I must admit that it was funny to see how seriously he was taking his wallet guardian duties.

                            I was a little hesitant about this trip because it is only the second time I have been out in a van and I am not all that comfortable with it. So I started getting stressed and that was affecting him. But my dad and the nurse that came with us were really good about things and kept my nerves under control. It was really good because my father has a tendency to hover over me and he didn’t this time. Anyways we got there and went inside and my nephew was really good about making sure that anything in my way was moved. I think it was making him feel important. And the isles were actually quite messy so he had his work cut out for him. We browsed the store and managed to fill up a whole cart. With what, I am not really sure lol. Then we went and played with the animals which really did wonders for both of our spirits I think. We got to put a very spirited and unbearably cute bull dog puppy on my lap tray and play with him. My dad showed my nephew how to hold my hands and to help me pet the puppy. He was very reluctant at first to touch me but eventually he did and he seemed okay with it. We played with a kitten the same way. Then we got to the birds and he was thrilled when the one of the store employees put a parrot on my shoulder. I was, as usual really stressed about the thought of going in public. But it was not as bad it seemed as my previous outings. They knew we were coming because one of my nurses knows the store manager. And maybe that made things a little easier for us all because we didn’t need to ask for anything, pretty much whatever we needed somebody was right there to help. Not a luxury I will have on most other forays into the world. And maybe cheating a bit, I don’t know. But we all had a very good time at the store. About the worst thing that happened in the store was he forgot my bank card code while we were in line and I had to tell him after he punched it in wrong twice lol.

                            I had a bit of a health issue on the way back and that sent my nephew into a tizzy again. I was fine but he got very upset and it seemed all the positive energy evaporated just like that. And then we had to say good bye because he was leaving the next morning. He was a big ball of anxiety and the unanswerable questions started up again. Hoping to try and lighten things up I gave him a cheque and a list of small fun things I want him to buy for my new apartment. I told him I trusted him not to just take the money and run. That at least got a smile out of him. But saying goodbye was very hard. I am just hoping he is going to cope okay when he gets home. I should be home in six weeks so that is likely the next time I will see him. I guess we will just wait and see what happens with him in the meantime and how he copes when I do go home. I am glad he came, but what an emotionally up heaving four days.
                            Last edited by orangejello; 18 Oct 2006, 2:34 PM.

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                              #15
                              OJ, Sounds like all involved are on the right track. I dont see your nephew as a monster just a scared worried little boy with fear of the unknown just like the rest of 3 million people in the US. LOL

                              I think you done the right thing by giving him very grown up duties to be in charge of. Kids really need to feel important and independent. I think this will eventually help with the fear he is having. It is important for him to learn that he can take your hand without fear of hurting you. Fear does really strange things to a persons body and mind.

                              OJ I think it will just take time and this was a great big step in the right direction.....(((((((hugs))))))) I am glad that dad didnt hover as before either......
                              T12-L2; Burst fracture L1: Incomplete walking with AFO's and cane since 1989

                              My goal in life is to be as good of a person my dog already thinks I am. ~Author Unknown

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