We are experiencing a period of regression with Gilbert at the moment. A time where he is so stressed out that he is returning to past obsessions and special interests to find comfort and normality in the new.
We first saw the signs in New Zealand. While he ended up coping with our first overseas trip far better than we ever imagined, he found his own way of dealing with the stress and anxiety that came with it.
For Gilbert, he saw a payphone at Sydney airport the night before we departed which ignited his long dormant interest in them again.
There was a time when he was between the ages of 4 and 6 where payphones were everything to Gilbert. His grandfather works for a telecommunications company so Gilbert was lucky enough to be the recipient of payphone paraphenalia and all sorts of information that he would pour over for hours at a time.
He could tell you about the differences between Telstra payphones such as the Clearline Plaza, Boulevarde and Streetcab. Whenever we passed by one he HAD to try it out and read the instructions – the same instructions that adorned each one. He would show us the pamphlets and describe in great detail the good and bad points of each model.
Eventually the interest died out, replaced by new interests in space, the human body, musical instruments and history. Just like his earlier interests in pedestrian crossings, speed humps, street signs, travelators and ATMs. For Gilbert, his obsessions seem to ebb and wane but they never truly die. He will always have a soft spot for everything he has been particularly tied to.
However, this is the first time he has returned to a previous interest with such focus and energy.
In New Zealand, he found comfort in a payphone at the caravan park we stayed at in Taupo. He didn’t get the deep fried hotdog he was after one evening after misbehaving and found comfort and calm in the aftermath by wandering around near the caravan park’s payphone. He had to go up and say goodbye to it when we left and then had to stop at every payphone we encountered on the rest of our trip.
Since we arrived home his interest has not waned. Yesterday I was requested to Google pictures of payphones for him and he demanded to be taken to one on Sunday morning which led to an epic meltdown. This also coincided with him reminiscing about his time at ASPECT when he caught the train at Cardiff and visited all the payphones on the way.
Upon deeper questioning (using techniques I am learning as part of the Cool Kids program for anxiety – more to come on that!) he revealed that he felt life was easier when he attended ASPECT, before his last two teachers “betrayed” him (by moving onto to other classes).
I asked the psychologist about it at our last visit and he agreed that it should be a short-lived return to his special interest but it seems to be getting more intense more than anything. It really has been a rough start to the year for my big boy. He started off okay but had a few days off last week due to stress and anxiety. Apparently the work is too hard, although, thankfully, he likes his new teacher.
All we can do is be there for him and support him as best we can.
But it’s hard watching your child go backwards due to stress and anxiety.
Do you have any tips for halting regression in your child? If you do, I’m all ears!