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Caring for the High Maintenance Child
By Kate Andersen.

Activity, Attention Span and Persistence. Nov/Dec, 2017.
Dear Kate:
I have a 9 month old who sleeps fairly well. Not a problem until lately, she wakes up and can't go back to sleep.....
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Activity, Attention Span and Persistence.

COPING WITH TEMPERAMENT: High Activity Level, Short Attention Span, Low and High Persistence

Each of these clues leads to a different solution. Once again, parents are often the experts and have been very creative in finding solutions for their children. "We made a rule of only one sleep over a month and it had to be on a Friday on a long weekend so seven-year old Kim had the rest of the weekend to catch up on her sleep. Her friends' parents went along with this rule, thankfully". "When I am expecting my PMS, I warn the family and make plans for some relief from parenting". "When my husband goes out of town, we have different routines that ensure I can give our son the extra attention he needs. Dad phones regularly to make sure Randy realizes that he is okay, and did not, as five-year old Randy feared, go up in the sky to heaven to be with Grandpa (which is what we finally realized Randy thought an airplane ride 'up in the sky' was all about)". "Solutions to sibling rivalry? Get real! Oh well, I guess we have to hear the messages and do what we can to make sure each child feels valued. Wish us luck!" "We found that our nine-year old son would open up more about his life - and therefore sometimes discover the reasons for his bad mood - if we went swimming with him and then took him out for a one-on-one treat afterwards. For some reason, this combination seemed to loosen him up and open the doors to communication".

Stay CALM.

But what if, in spite of all your great strategies, your child is grouchy and irritable and snaps at everything you say? First of all - stay calm. Getting irritable, impatient or angry with an irritable child (or adult) is just like pouring gasoline on a fire. One family reported: "The more intense four-year old Nick became, the less intense we were in response even to the point of answering him in a virtual whisper. We call it counter-intensity and it is powerful! It seems to bring him right down". "Along with remaining calm, we find the content of our response is important. We don't tell ten-year old Alison not to be so irritable. But if he is so grouchy that communication is impossible, we tell her that she had better come back and talk to us when she can communicate better. Saying this without sounding mad is quite a feat but that is the key, we find." "Our eight-year old child is truly stressed by his own irritability. I had trouble realizing this until our counsellor asked me how I liked it when I was in a bad mood. So now we remind Zak about times that he has been grouchy before and point out that he usually feels better in a couple of days. We can usually point out a specific instance, such as 'the time you felt down about your bike being stolen'. This does help. He gets all quiet and then goes and finds something to do". "Watch out for analysis paralysis!! We used to dig and dig and dig to find out what was making twelve-year old Suzanne so grumpy. She got worse and worse as we pressured her. Now we just say: 'I guess you're not in a great mood today. You'll find a way to cope." And she does. And we congratulate her for it". "Sometimes we just need to lighten the whole situation up with a joke or some fun. We all tend to get deathly serious at times in our family. It can be hard to know when to tell a joke or tickle Amanda, but we are getting better at reading the signals and we find our way through these down-in-the-dumps-days, as we call them".

TAKE ACCOUNT of all temperament traits

Another important factor in irritability is the extent to which a child is experiencing stress or a poor fit because of other temperament traits. A child with a negative mood is often a child who is low in adaptability, for example. This child will be more negative during periods of change (such as starting a new grade) or when transitions on sprung on her without warning. The child may also have strong withdrawing tendencies and demands for sociability make bring out negativity. All the areas of stress need to be addressed to bring about a positive change in mood.

LOOK for other problems of FIT

The 'high maintenance' child, by our definition, has extreme temperament traits but may also have a learning disability or a health problem. Or the child may be experiencing family stress. Not all, but many such children have a temperamental tendency to negative mood. Don't dismiss the negativity as just an expression of temperament, though. Remember that negative mood is just a tendency. The mood itself is a reflection of many factors, including the child's general contentment and adjustment. This means that such a child may often be VERY negative in mood expression because life is so much harder for him or her. Work hard to reduce the stress to manageable levels but remember that you cannot remove the tendency to respond to stress in this particular way - by becoming very irritable.

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