After last night’s session with Ethan’s new therapist (D), I feel even more sure that Ethan’s problems in school are very heavily grief-based.
She started by asking really basic questions to get him more comfortable. (Where do you go to school? What grade are you in? What’s your favorite school subject? What do you like to do for fun?)
Then she moved to word association. Mom, she said.
“Pretty good,” Ethan said. “Nice, but I get mad when she won’t let me play my 3DS.”
D looked at me. I could see her smile through her eyes. Grandma, she said next.
“Good,” said Ethan.
Ethan’s body tensed. He covered his face with his hands. He started to get very fidgety. His fists balled up. He arched his back.
“It’s okay,” D said. “How do you feel about your dad?”
“I don’t have a dad,” Ethan said.
“Yes you do,” D said. “He’s just not here with you. How do you feel about your dad?”
Ethan started punching the ball he was holding. “Mad,” he said. “I told him to stop drinking beer. I threw some of his beer away once. I got in really bad trouble.”
“What happened?” D asked softly.
Ethan continued hitting the ball. He turned his back to us and punched at the ball.
“Daddy yelled – LOUD. Then I got send to my room. He should have stopped drinking.”
“It’s okay to punch that ball,” D said. Ethan continued his physical outburst for another minute or so.
D looked at me and whispered,” Did you see those physical changes? There’s a lot going on there.”
The rest of the session went well. It was hard for Ethan to focus after talking about his dad. The three of us played a game involving placing stones on Ethan’s body to encourage him to lay still. Then we played a board game called Stop, Relax & Think, which got him opening up a bit about his feelings and start thinking through possible ways to relax and deal with stressful situations or things that make him angry.
At one point in the Stop, Relax & Think game, I had to sing a song until D told me to stop. Ethan apparently was not amused with my singing and told me to stop a few times. I kept going until D told me to quit, per the rules. D turned to Ethan and explained that it was never the job of the child to tell his parent to “stop.” Instead it is the job of the parent to correct the child. I liked D even more after that.
We go back to D in a week. She’s going to do good things with Ethan.