This week Mollie has successfully been playing with three sisters who live across the road from us. This is wonderful but the situation does bring about new challenges and hurdles to jump over. Mollie can become very hyper, anxious and obsessive when she is playing with other children which can then cause a lot of stress and anxiety for us and a lot of stress for them. Here are just a few of the issues that we have dealt with in the last few days.
- She needs her friends to have full access to our home which is stressful. Four kids running round, screaming, banging doors, toys out everywhere and nothing being put away or tidied up. I don’t mean for a few hours either I am talking from 10.00 am till 7.00pm. This is not the fault of or instigated by the girls, who are lovely, this is Mollie’s way of trying to facilitate friendships.
- The moment I say no or won’t facilitate something I am called a ‘F***ing Bi*ch’, doors are slammed and she starts to go into full panic attack territory.
- If the sisters are going somewhere then she instantly wants me to drop whatever I am doing so that we can follow them like a couple of stalkers.
- She basically becomes obsessed with being with them for every waking minute and facilitating everything that they want to do.
- Trying to implement some non negotiable boundaries resulted in a major panic attack yesterday. We were all stressed and I didn’t initially handle it very well. I have flashbacks to how our life was a couple of years ago and it is a place that I simply can’t revisit.
- Even though she appears to be less dominating and explosive with the girls than she was a couple of years ago I am simply on pins waiting for the explosions and subsequent meltdowns to come. This however is my problem, not Mollie’s, and so far she is actually coping well with her own personal behaviour towards the girls. However I am sucking up the consequences of her anxiety with extra control been excerpted over me when they go home.
- I told Mollie that socializing was having such a profound affect on her that it was ruining the calm that we had built up in our home and that perhaps it would be better for her to stop before things got out of hand.
- At this point she broke down, sobbed, she was fighting for her breath and so I had to get her a paper bag for her to breath into. I just can’t face being alone again she whimpered. My heart melted, it was time to work out how to manage this situation in a mutually beneficial way.
“I tell you what” I said to Moll “how about I go and fetch a pen and paper and we can come up with a plan so that we both know where we are, perhaps we will both feel less stressed if we have a timetable to work to. Plus we need to try to understand how each other feels so that we can both try to adjust our own needs for the benefit of the other person”
Over the past few days we have been discussing empathy, social interaction, why things are confusing for her and how NT’s may struggle with understanding her PDA quirks. It was these discussions that formed the foundation and the information on one of my previous posts. I must stress that, I believe, it is only down to the two years of social detox and the work that was done during those years that have enabled us to reach this plateau now.
So Moll and I discussed our issues and our problems.
- She felt in a state of permanent panic because she wanted to do and to facilitate whatever the sister’s wanted because she felt that this was the only way that she could keep them as friends. A complete lack of self-confidence and self-worth means that Mollie only thinks that kids will want to be friends with her if she is giving them stuff, in this case our home as a playground. She hopes that by having huge pulling power in certain areas e.g. choice of toys, a large play area and tasty treats that this may effectively bribe other kids to play with her and to counterbalance her need to control.
- She says that although she understands that people have feelings she often doesn’t care about those feelings if she needs something. I told her not to worry about that and that it doesn’t mean that she is a bad person but that her brain simply has a wiring system that doesn’t automatically produce instant empathy.
- I explained to her that I find it very stressful if my home is being used as a play area because I can’t relax if I know that no rules will be followed. The huge amount of mess on top of an already heavy workload of tidying/cleaning can really push my anxiety levels up to the max. I explained that I can’t help it but that mess stresses me out like demands stress her out. Having control over my house and mess has become somewhat of an obsession for me. I need to keep some feel of control over it.
- I said that I could really understand her point of view and I hoped that she could understand my point of view and that we could both help each other. I also explained that I didn’t want to place rules and boundaries to stifle her or to control her but that it was a way of keeping me calm which would mean that I would be more relaxed and less stressed with her.
Ok so the first important thing is for Mollie to feel that she has a lot to offer, as a person within her own right, so that she doesn’t feel as if she has no value as a friend unless she is offering other kids bribes and treats to play with her. So Mollie and I made a list of all of her good points and her ‘not so good’ points.
lots and lots of fun
A fabulous Imagination that enables her to come up with lots of fab games
A very loyal friend who will defend her friends against anyone
Can be very stubborn which can be a good trait
Full of energy
Very excitable which can make quite boring activities very enjoyable
Not So Good Points
Can be very stubborn which isn’t always a good thing
Needs to be in control and in charge (but not as much as previously)
Can be volatile, lash out and say mean things (however not anywhere near as much as previously and all kids can be mean at times)
So on the back of this task Mollie could see that she had plenty of good and appealing aspects to her character and that the negative aspects, which we all have, aren’t as prolific as they used to be. So all in all why wouldn’t other kids want to play with her solely based on her own merits?
Off the back of our conversation Moll and I came up with a daily timetable which we both thought was acceptable and manageable.
- We agreed that we would keep the house empty of kids until midday. This gave me the chance to get housework and chores done in a quiet home.
- However she could play with her friends in the garage which is attached to the house and has access to the garden. Also our garage is mainly used to store an overflow of Moll’s toys and it is carpeted and rather pleasant to be in. Especially during the summer months, the doors can be left open letting the sunshine in.
- Between midday and 5.00pm they could all play in the conservatory, which is Mollie’s playroom, and her bedroom. However I did not want them randomly roaming all around the house, as and when they chose to, and I would prefer them to stay in the conservatory.
- Between 5.00pm – 7.00pm I would be grateful if they could return to the garage and garden option which gives me a chance to prepare the evening meal in peace and to tidy the conservatory ready for the following day.
- At 7.00pm ‘House Sherwin’ is closed for the day and any further play will need to be conducted in the street.
- An important rule to help me feel calm is not to have too much mess out at one time and to try to tidy toys away. I don’t mind tidying up for an hour at the end of a play session but any more than that is too much.
- If the girls are going out somewhere I can’t just drop whatever I am doing, jump in the car and follow them. Also their parents may not want me following them around. We will use this time to do things together. I explained the importance to Mollie of not becoming obsessed with the sisters. I told her that if she could manage to keep a healthy balance of playing with the sisters but still be able to do other things too that this would be better for her in the long run.
- The timetable has been agreed by both of us and she has stuck it to the fridge door.
So far things are going smoothly and she is sticking to the rules. I would also just like to add that Mollie does have the option to play at the sisters’ house and that play dates aren’t a one way street. However I think that Mollie likes to keep play dates at her home so that she feels she is attracting the girls to play with her and also because home is where she feels safe.
We had a lovely chat with the girl’s parents yesterday to try to adequately explain Mollie’s difficulties ready for when problems begin to rise. What a wonderful and refreshing to change to have a full and frank discussion with parents who were not only empathetic, understanding and open minded but who had also taken the time to research PDA before they came over. Ironically ‘Dad’ had been reading the information cards that I had recently created without realising that it was my blog. Lots of people can try to understand but it is very rare to speak to people who do actually’ just get it’ and you know that they aren’t secretly thinking ‘Jane & Lee just need to be firmer and to put in some firm boundries’. They are going to work with us, as a team, to try to make Mollie’s friendship with their daughters as successful as possible. Mollie may become too much for the girls to cope with, which I do understand, but at least I won’t feel that I have to keep justifying why we have to deal with her in the way that we do.
I have prepared the following information sheet to try and inform other parents and neighbours of Mollie’s difficulties. A few of my neighbours already know and understand but I have noticed that there are a lot more children coming out to play. Each new child comes with a new set of parents and adequately explaining PDA is one of the most difficult things to do. Some may understand and make allowances and some may not. All I can do is offer the information in the hope that it has the desired effect. Sometimes just something as simple as how you say something rather than what you say can make all of the difference between a happy child or one that is on the verge of a meltdown.
Please click here to view my information sheet for new parents and neighbours that may come into contact with Mollie. I know that many parents find explaining PDA to others is one of the more difficult aspects of having a child with PDA. Perhaps this information sheet about Mollie could be adapted for your child?