When Liam was little, he made friends very easily, he had a group of friends in creche that he loved spending time with and he played so well with others.
When we moved him to ‘big’ school, he again made friends easily, he formed a bond with one boy in particular and they were great buddies.
Things changed when he went into Grade 0, his buddy left the school and the other kids decided whether they would like Liam to play with them or not. Some days he would come home and tell me all about the games he played with the other kids. Some days nobody would allow him to play with them.
As the year dragged on, I gradually saw Liam’s self-confidence fade.
He would always strike up conversation with strangers in the shops, particularly with elderly ladies, they loved it! And he loved the attention he would get from them, but soon he began to withdraw and I noticed he was getting shy.
I also noticed that he began to suppress his emotions, instead of crying tears if he was upset or sad about something, he would literally suck it up; take a big breath and hold it, put his hands between his glasses and his eyes and then slowly breathe out.
One day I walked Liam to school, kissed and hugged him goodbye, and started walking out of the school grounds. The walk took me past the Grade 0 playground where I would always try and spot Liam playing. This particular day I stopped dead in my tracks. He was with two boys who were shaking their heads at him and I watched them walk away. I saw Liam’s head drop as he turned to sit on a bench nearby. The image of him sitting on that bench has been burnt into my heart and brain. My little six year old was clearly suppressing his tears, he was staring at his lap, sitting there in his hat, t-shirt, shorts, socks and little shoes, so many children playing on the playground, no-one taking notice of my heart sore little boy sitting on his own. I walked up to the fence and called out to him, his head lifted at the sound of his name and I waved, he spotted me and I immediately saw his spirits lift. He came over to me and I asked him if he was okay, he nodded and I suggested he find a family friend’s kid who was in the same grade, he said that it was okay, they would ring the bell soon for class to start. I held his little hand through the fence and told him how much I loved him. I had to leave, as much as I wanted to stay, as much as I wanted to walk back around, take his bag and bring him home with me, I had to leave. Tears are streaming down my face as I type this, this memory breaks me every time I think of it.
These social and emotional issues began after we had taken Liam to the Educational Psychologist, so when I took Liam to see the Pediatric Neurologist I told her that Liam was having trouble making friends and expressing his emotions. She told us that group play therapy would help him and gave me a few contacts.
At the time my dearest friend was working on opening a Life Coaching Centre. It was a very exciting time as she was finding Life Coaches and tutors and finalising the rental of the rooms nearby. She was planning on opening in January 2016.
We decided that we would try and help Liam at home in the meantime, he was starting at a new school soon, and hopefully with that he would quickly make friends and we would see his confidence grow.
I found a lovely suggestion on the internet to help get your child to open up and talk to you, and that was to ask him or her each night before bedtime ‘What made you happy today? What made you sad today? What made you laugh today? What made you cry today?’ etc. This worked for us quite nicely, he spoke to me about things that he wouldn’t normally have talked about.
One time I was going through the questions with him and when I asked him ‘What made you sad today?’, he told me that one of the kids at school asked him to take his glasses off so that he could see his glasses, so Liam did it and in return this boy started laughing at Liam’s squint. I wasn’t upset with the boy, the majority of the children didn’t know that Liam had a squint as he was always wearing his glasses, so his eyes were always aligned. The child probably thought that Liam was squinting on purpose as a joke, I don’t know, but I do like to give people the benefit of the doubt. I did tell Liam though that he didn’t have to take his glasses off at school when someone asks him to, and I actually preferred it if he didn’t as I didn’t want anyone breaking them.
Soon the new school year began, Liam was very excited about going to a new school and as we had hoped, he quickly made a friend with another boy who was also new at the school. They hit it off and I was so grateful that my boy had someone to play with! However, during the first term, in our parent/teacher meeting, his teacher told us that Liam and his friend were super close, which was great, but they both refused to play with other kids and would also kick up a fuss if they were doing group activities but weren’t in the same group.
By now my friends business was open and she had some pretty awesome Life Coaches, including herself, that could work with him.
He started his sessions in February 2016 and his Life Coach started giving him the essential tools and skills he needed. She would give him challenges for school, like, to ask the girl that sits next to him in class how she is. His Life Coach helped him identify emotions and guided him with healthy ways to express them. She also worked on fine motor skills and did activities with him during their sessions together.
By the third term of school, Liam was friends with almost everyone! His good buddy and him were playing together, or separately, or in a large group, or alone.
He was starting to cry tears again! I took full advantage of those tears and would just hold him, tell him that it will be okay and kept holding until the tears stopped.
He also started handling frustration so much better. Before he would ball up his fists and shake, or bang whatever it was that he was busy with on the floor. One time I caught him punching a computer screen out of frustration. Now he seemed to step back, take a break, walk it off and return to the task once he had cooled down.
He still has a Life Coaching session once a month, I feel it is important for his emotional well-being.
I have an extremely kind and compassionate young boy, he is able to empathise, he feels terrible if he thinks he’s hurt someone’s feelings. He is a fun loving, amazing little human being who tells me he loves me, tells me when he likes my hair a certain way, notices when I’ve changed the colour of my toenail polish. He adores babies and loves to be near them. He asks questions about everything and is also quite the witty fellow.
His cousins had a tiff the other day while we were in the car and Liam started to sulk, I thought he was sulking because my mom and I were singing a Roxette song really loud, so when I turned the volume down and asked him why he was upset, he said that he just wanted his cousins to stop being angry with each other because they are brothers and they should love each other all the time. I told him that sometimes brothers fight, but that didn’t cheer him up, he only cheered up once they apologised to each other.
The other day when I went to fetch him from school, a little boy had slipped and fallen, he wasn’t hurt, but he was upset and refused to stand up and walk to his mom’s car, Liam went up to him to help him up and make sure he was okay.
He is still shy when meeting new people, but that is okay, we are working on his confidence and self-esteem every single day.
I shudder to think where we’d be now if it weren’t for the help of his Life Coach, a very special person who, I feel, every child could benefit from seeing. Life throws us so many ups and downs, we should equip our children with the skills to deal with the curve balls.
Out of all of the specialists, therapists and doctors Liam has seen, there are three that I don’t regret, I don’t feel we wasted money on and I would do it all over again if I had to, and they are Life Coaching, Vision Therapy and Occupational Therapy. They are doing what they do out of their passion for helping children, it shows in the way they interact with your child and they get just as excited as you when there is a breakthrough.