A mother asked for advice from Annalisa Barbieri's Problem Solved Column in the Guardian Weekend, about her intelligent, funny and very loving son whose behaviour which "seemed normal in a three-year-old is increasingly worrying as he gets older." ACP member, Sarah Sutton responded.
The mother describes a pattern of a few months to a year of normal behaviour followed by a gradual build up of anger/frustration/temper. "Triggers can be the tiniest things and his reactions can be extreme. These periods have generally lasted roughly one to three months before things calm down again."
Sarah Sutton, who is also a parent as well as being a psychoanalytic child and adolescent psychotherapist – said the drive to “keep things happy may mean there are a lot of strong feelings that have to be pushed out of sight”. She highlighted the problem in that, eventually, these feelings have to burst out. “The outburst,” explained Sutton, “can feel out of proportion, but it has actually built up over time.”
She also asked about the husband’s relationship with his son and how the suicide mention is a “real red flag”. Adding that the family as a whole needs support.
Sutton was asked what you could do in the heat of the moment, when the son was having an outburst. She said it is really important to ask “what could he be telling us?” and to name his feelings. "It’s such a relief for children,” explains Sutton, “when it’s OK to feel the full range of emotional states: love, hate, disappointment, contentment etc. What if feelings in themselves were not right or wrong, but a response to the situation someone finds themselves in?”
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