My step-son is 7 yrs old and has recently been exhibiting what I consider to be socially awkward behavior. He has always been a very quiet , well behaved and reserved type of child but recently he has been demonstrating some concerning behaviors. Let me give some history....his father and I have primary custody of him and he sees his mother , supervised, 2 x a month. She is bi-polar and has personality and histrionic disorder along with known drug and alcohol offenses. Her influence on him is only apparent for about one day upon his return to our home, then he returns to is normal behaviors and drops his bad attitude towards us. Lately his behavior towards me has been ignoring, not making eye contact, avoidance to name a few things. He rarely speaks to me without being spoken to first and even with that I may get one or two word sentences out of him., At other times he will constantly be looking either to myself or his father for constant validation for whatever it may be he is saying or doing. He is in 2nd grade and has acceptable grades and so far his teachers comments have been unremarkable. We do notice that in the morning at the bus stop he tends to stay by himself and not interact with the other boys or girls. When we pick him up at aftercare he is typically by himself. When he arrives home he most always secludes himself in his room and plays by himself. Especially if its is just he and I at home. I have to physically go in and ask to come out and join the rest of us. When his Dad comes home he becomes talkative and less secluded. He is unable to make eye contact without being told. He is constantly fidgiting as if he had bugs on him when we talk to him in a 1:1 setting. He has a very difficult time with following directions. As I have been told before well thats because he is a boy, but I disagree. He is afraid to get dirty or play hard. He lacks any aggressive tactics in his play. My daughter is 10 and lives with us too. He has an ok relationship with her as they are step-siblings and tolerate what they can of each other. He is also extremely sensitive and ends up crying anytime we sit him down to address any concerns we have or issues we think he may be having. We both agree that at 7 this young child has alot on his plate with his mothers situation and being in a blended family however I feel his coping mechanisms are way off and need help or suggestions or what anyone thinks or where we go with this next.
I suspect your stepson is dealing with anxiety issues - perhaps social. I don't think he is trying to be "difficult"; he is uncomfortable in your presence (and that is not a criticism but a very common behaviour in children with anxiety issues). I hope your stepson did not inherited any of the "disorders" of his mother - if anxiety is your stepson's only mental health issue, then he is lucky as anxiety is highly treatable.
I might suggest you google the term "childhood anxiety" or "social anxiety" to get a better understanding of this disorder. I also would suggest you remove "pressure" from him by trying to get him to talk, or make eye contact, etc. (it takes a long time for children with anxiety to feel comfortable with others - and you are seeing this with his peers as well as in his home). Children with anxiety also have trouble "following directions" as they often are so overwhelmed with their fears/stresses/anxieties that they do not "hear" all the instructions. In addition, they usually have the "hesitant factor" when asked to do something - they're not being stubborn; it's the anxiety that causes this behaviour. suspect this behaviour is also happening at school.
I really don't think you are dealing with a severe anxiety disorder, but if it helps, it might be prudent to talk to your family doctor about ways in which to "lessen the anxiety" in the home and in school. Often just a few tactics and a change in the family's way of doing things (as well as the teacher at school) can make a huge difference to a child with anxiety issues. Hope this helps ...
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