Thursday, June 25, 2009

Prematurity and Behavior

"Certain brain areas of children who are born prematurely appear to be smaller than normal and remain that way even by the time they're in the third grade. The differences concerned the areas of the cerebral cortex responsible for reading, language, emotion and behavior. They were more pronounced in boys than in girls, says a study appearing in the August issue of the Journal of Pediatrics."

Lately I have been doing a lot of research on behavior. Now don't get me wrong, Gavin can be one of the sweetest kids on the planet, as is hugely evidenced by his tremendous love of his brother. And Chad said it best the other day "He really wants to do the right thing."

But Gavin is EMOTIONAL. Sometimes the tiniest things set him off. Most kids are grumpy when hungry or tired, Gavin is downright, well a total nightmare. I would think by now the tantrums would be getting better, but they are not. I feel like we do the right things as parents. We say no. We sometimes say yes to show we are flexible and can compromise, as I've read we are supposed to.

I've learned that preemies have a hard time with "gray area". In which case I may be doing him a disservice by letting him drink pop occasionally. Maybe he can't understand that it's a "sometimes" thing and would be better served if the answer was always no or always yes.

I've learned that missing the last 3 months in the quiet, dark womb really interferes with brain development. Instead of that quiet slumber in which to develop, a preemie's brain is thrust into a world of bright lights, beeping alarms, and lots of pain. All things which that tiny brain is not prepared or supposed to be able to process and handle. How can we expect to them to behave completely "normal"?

A quote from a recent study - "It found that premature children had higher levels of anxiety, depression and aggression than full term children, and that they had a lower self concept. Premature children were found to have more disturbances at home and school. The smaller the birth weight, the less emotionally adjusted the child will be."

Now I am not saying that I think Gavin has any significant problems that are going to hold him back. But it's nice to have some validation of these nagging feelings I've been having. That even though I've read tons of articles on behavior and parenting and try my hardest, he is still a difficult child and nothing I'm doing seems to help. And the worst part is - he doesn't want to meltdown. He doesn't want to have privileges taken away, any more than we want to do the taking. He WANTS to do the right thing, but it really feels like sometimes he just can't control himself.

Some other Gavin traits that may be attributed to prematurity - lack of confidence (Gavin is a perfectionist and afraid of doing things for fear of getting it wrong - more so academic than physical), inability to adapt to new situations or the unexpected (as in the extreme freakouts we get when we tell him one person will pick him up and someone else shows up). We avoid telling him of any plans because if Uncle Chris doesn't come to dinner or Grandma Betsy doesn't come over on a night we told him, he just can't handle it.

It's just nice to know....we're not bad parents. We're not doing something wrong. There could really be a medical explanation for some of his behavior. And the thing about it is that it won't show up until they are older b/c all toddlers act up. Gavin just seems stuck in the terrible twos some days.

The only thing I haven't found is how to "fix" it. And what sucks the most is that he "looks" normal. He "looks" caught up. And he's really freaking smart. I'm not sure that knowing any of this helps anything, but it is kind of nice to have a little more insight into why he may be the way he is. I only hope it can make me a more tolerant and patient parent, and in that, we can start to turn a corner on this.

No comments: