Parenting K-6 Kids/Troubled 6 year old

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Happier times
Happier times  
This summer I am caring for my 6 yr old great grandson - he and his little brother were taken from their father (single dad) and put in custody of my 47 yr old son.  My son was struggling to care for them so I took the oldest one for the summer - different province.  His father was a big part of his life but drifted away alot during the past year and has supervised visits recently.  His mother, who only saw him on the ocassional weekend, moved a long ways away.  His step grandma didn't like having the two boys in her home and left.  3 big losses for the little man!  
He can't be trusted at all - runs off and hides, intentionally leaves things where they will get lost, tells lies/stories/, seeks attention non stop, sometimes just gets angry and makes an angry noise - monotone to drown out what you are trying to say, always turns things around "You said..." when it isn't what I said at all.  Seems to not care about consequences or belongings or relationships.  Lots of "everyone hates me" and "I don't like you"
Zero patience!  Total meltdown if you do not respond immediately or if anything goes wrong.
So, so sad to see this wonderful little fellow change so drastically.  He used to be a good little student, the star of the daycare and a nice little boy.  Now the school and the daycare do not want him and no one wants to take him anywhere because of the hiding and running off.
No idea what will happen as the father fights to get him back - trial in Dec.
Really struggling with how to deal with him and what to say and not to say.  Do you get honest with a 6 yr old and tell them why his father is not around?
What to do???? Any help will be greatly appreciated!!!

Answer
Hi Shirley,
Based on what you've described, I'm not surprised by your great-grandson's behavior. Nor that it's getting worse even though he's in a more stable home (behavior often gets worse before it gets better). While there are things you can do to help, it's not likely to go away quickly and you might want to consider getting counseling for him (to deal with his loss, anger and grief) and maybe take a parent education class for specific techniques you can use to help him. If he's placed by social services, they should have assistance for him and you to help with his behavior.

What all children need, and especially so for children with loss and uncertainty in their background, is consistency and unconditional love. Boundaries need to be clear and firm. If you tell him to do or not to do something, you need to follow through if he doesn't or does do it. That takes more energy (physically and mentally), but a lack of consistent follow through only shows him you don't mean what you say and he can do what he wants. Consistency also offers stability...he can trust you and his environment. Once he feels like his environment is stable, his behavior will improve (though not be perfect, because all kids misbehave sometimes).

Finally, spend quality focused time with him. Just 15-20 minutes a day doing an activity or game of his choice, will boost his self-esteem and make him feel loved. This is not a time for homework. Instead you enter his world. You may learn a lot about how he feels and experiences the world during this time.

It's very difficult to provide the type of assistance you and your great-grand son need through an email. I commend you for taking him in and seeking support to help him. As I mentioned, I suggest that you consider counseling and perhaps a parent support group so you both get the support you need.  

Parenting K-6 Kids

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Leslie Truex

Expertise

I am a parent of two, but also I'm a social worker with over 15 year experience working with children and families. I can provide many tips and techniques to help with child behavior, interventions for specific behavioral issues, ideas to help children through difficult times such as divorce or grief, hints on keeping the family running smoothly, and tips for developing confident, happy children.

Experience

I have a master's in social work and over 15 years experience working with children and families. I have worked in schools, public health, mental health and adoption agencies providing parent education courses and children's groups.

Education/Credentials
BA in Psychology and MSW.

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