What do you do when your kid doesn’t like themselves? I understand navigating those teenage years can be a rollercoaster for everyone involved. But a kid? Life just isn’t easy is it.
A few weeks back I pick up a cute book from the library about a little girl that likes herself no matter what. While I was reading this silly and funny book my middle child announced that he liked himself! Then my youngest celebrated that she liked herself too with a jump and spin in the air. However my oldest son with autism Mr. L, stayed quiet in his bed. I asked my oldest child if he liked himself and he quietly said no. I asked him why and he mumbled that he didn’t want to talk about it and rolled away from me.
The next day I reached out to his teacher and asked if this felt like a red flag. She said that it definitely felt like a red flag and that she would do some investigating when she had some one on one time with him. In the meantime she put together a social story and sent it home with Mr. L.
The social story was cute but it was very personalized to my son and I didn’t think he would want his siblings to overhear what was discussed in this customized story about his autism and his school experiences. So I asked my husband if he could take Mr. L to the kitchen to read his new story.
After reading a couple of picture books to Mr. C and Little Miss A my husband called to me and asked if I could listen to Mr. L for a minute. I came into the kitchen and found out that the social story had helped our son find his voice to tell us a piece of the problem. My husband Michael asked Mr. L if he wanted to tell me about a boy at school. With tears in my son’s eyes he told me that he was smart, and that this kid from school was wrong.
We immediately agreed with Mr. L that he is smart, and we went on to tell him that he was funny, creative, brave and so much fun to be with. However that basically siphoned the rest of our son’s desire to talk about himself and he asked if he could go to bed.
The next day I called his teacher again and asked if there was a boy that went by this name our son had shared with us and explained plainly how my husband and I would not under any circumstances tolerate bullying. That if this continued the boys would be separated into different classrooms and that I had no problem pressing charges if this wasn’t resolved quickly. Because none of my children will live in fear or be miserable while receiving their education.
I was kind but I was clear.
Mr. L’s teacher was understanding, took the information seriously, and got to work on finding this kid. She checked the 4th grade to see if there were any other boys with this name and when she came up empty she had narrowed it down to a child in the special needs classroom. She talked with this kid and asked if he had been mean to Mr. L and he admitted yes. This child went on to say that he had been calling my son names, and had been getting him riled up.
The teacher had this kid apologize, she explained to him how his behaviors were not acceptable, and following my request to have these two kiddos separated for awhile unless an adult was watching them at that very moment.
I did what I could on the school end of things. I mean there are no guarantees that this situation will stay this way. Staff changes happen often and not every adult is filled in with every detail. But I know the teacher tried, and I showed my son how important his feelings and self respect are to me.
I asked the teacher to make two more social stories to hopefully help teach Mr. L how to tell us if someone is being mean to him, and how to tell us when he’s made a friend. But you never know right? How long had this kid been mean to my son and I didn’t even know? What else is he thinking about himself and why?
My child is awesome, and smart, and clever. He has a strong determination to help and protect his siblings. Mr. L is funny and creative, and responsible when it comes to taking care of himself and can help others. BUT he has autism. I like him, I wouldn’t change his brain. If I could make it easier for him to process his sensory input I would. If I could make it easier for him to talk I would. But his personality is perfect and his brain is brilliant. However I’m not blind. I know life is hard for him, it’s frustrating and sometimes overwhelming.
But I don’t know what he knows and that has always worried me.
How can I help him when he doesn’t know he can ask for help? What else worries him that I could ease but I may never be told about it?
So I’ve picked up more positive self esteem books from the library, and I ask him about school and the people there when I pick him up. When he does a good thing I occasionally slide in the words, “I like you” and before kissing his forehead before bed I try to list a few things to him that I know he is, such as, “Smart, funny, and brave”.
I mean, what else can I do?
I’m grateful I picked up that first book at the library on a whim because we had no idea our son was unhappy. I’m grateful that his teacher put together that social story that inspired our kid to tell us with words some of his frustrations.
And last night after months of working on this I asked him before kissing his forehead if he liked himself and he whispered, “Maybe”. And that’s the first time I’ve heard that and that my friends is progress ❤️