Parenting Ups & Downs

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By Rebecca Teti

Monday: Parenting

(Join each day’s Coffee Talk discussion: Mon: Parenting; Tues: Open Forum; Wed: NFP; Thu: Marriage; Fri: Education; Sat/Sun: Changing Roles)

Terrible toddlers? Trying teens? Something in between? This weekly forum is the spot to share your questions and struggles about all things related to parenthood.

Please join us!

Rebecca Teti


  • Hope everyone had a great weekend! Sorry if this post looks a bit wonky --I assume it's due to impending site changes. Meanwhile, here's a question a reader left in Friday's discussion that might get more attention here. "Unknown" writes: "I have a daughter receiving her First Holy Communion this year and am interested in chatting with other parents who want to get involved in the preparation but her Catholic School has not been very communicative at all about the celebration of the sacrament and I want to outreach to other parents."

    Posted on Feb 4th, 2013 at 5:58 AM by Rebecca Teti

  • My oldest is 3 & I wasn't raised Catholic, so I have admittedly ZERO experience with this, but have you talked to your Priest? He may (hopefully) be more interested in/serious about the Sacraments than whoever is blowing you off at the school, and probably grateful for parental involvement!

    Posted on Feb 4th, 2013 at 7:06 AM by Crunchy Con Mommy

  • is anyone familiar with how a child gets diagnosed with something like aspergers syndrome? what is the first step?

    Posted on Feb 4th, 2013 at 8:32 AM by josie

  • Josie -- I have a son who is on the Autism spectrum. Our first step was through the pediatrician. She noticed our son wasn't developing speech, gross motor and fine motor skills as quickly as neurotypical children. She put us in touch with our state's Birth to Three program where they did an evaluation. Our son wasn't actually "diagnosed" as being on the spectrum until after he transitioned in to the elementary school system. Meanwhile, the school district created an IEP for him and got him the necessary therapies. Sorry for the long story. Short answer: Talk to your child's pediatrician about your concerns.

    Posted on Feb 4th, 2013 at 9:03 AM by unknown

  • Josie--There are many different professionals who may be involved in diagnosing aspergers. I would agree that your pediatrician is the best place to start along with your town's early intervention or special education department. Along the way you may be referred to a host of different specialists--neurologists, developmental pediatricians, neuropsychologists, speech pathologists, OT...The diagnosis itself would make your son qualify for services in the long term, but even without a diagnosis, the different specialists can help you along the way to make sure his needs are addressed. Good luck finding the right help for your son!

    Posted on Feb 4th, 2013 at 9:31 AM by unknown

  • Josie, You can also refer your son to your state's birth to three program yourself. The best way to find out how to do that would be to call your local health department. If your child is of school age you can request the school psychologist evaluate your child.

    Posted on Feb 4th, 2013 at 9:33 AM by Jenny

  • Unknown, At our parish it is the Director of Religious Education who handles all the sacrament preparation logistics, even for those who go to the Catholic school. I know our DRE is always looking for ways to increase communication with the parents and amongst the parents. Perhaps you could talk to your DRE?

    Posted on Feb 4th, 2013 at 9:35 AM by Jenny

  • Unknown, thanks so much. I have an 8 year old boy that has been expressing certain types of behavior for a few years, it is wearing on us terribly at home lately-getting worse, more heightened, my heart is breaking as it disrupts our family life and my husband and I are at a loss as to how to get through to him and help him. Meanwhile his heart is really as sweet and sensitive as can be when these episodes don't happen. I have been praying for what feels like forever to unlock the key to his heart. It is very difficult to understand what makes him tick. But he has no social issues at school so far and is extremely bright, so it's hard to discern b/c there are so many difficulties with him at home, and so many oddities. It's not "just bad behavior" though, we don't let him get away with anything, but the struggle is just getting greater and greater lately. things can go on for hours, every weekend, problems every morning, every afternoon. He does not process life the way my other children do and he can fly off the handle about the strangest and tiniest of things. He wakes up screaming and yelling nearly every morning. He tells me-cries to me, yells at me, that he doesn't understand what I'm telling him when I ask him to do the simplest tasks. It never occurred to me until today how often he says that. I never believe him b/c it could be so simple like "take the garbage out". I think he's just being disobedient or lazy. But I just realized, he needs detailed written instruction on how to take the garbage out. He's not kidding when he says he doesn't understand. When things are very clear for him (like they are in his classroom b/c his teacher is super organized-I have loved her for my other kids for that reason), he can thrive and function. Oh I could go on and on, so many little things. I want so badly to help him. Thanks so much for the quick reply. I will check with the peds first then, when I gather enough courage. Sorry, that was super long. God bless.

    Posted on Feb 4th, 2013 at 9:40 AM by Josie

  • Oh! And others, thank you! I took so long to write that I got more responses in the meantime:). Thanks so very much and God bless.

    Posted on Feb 4th, 2013 at 9:41 AM by Josie

  • Josie, I had a thought. Maybe you could make some kind of "household book" , with tabs, that has instructions for procedures and chores that you normally do around the house? Maybe then he could find the correct tab, open the book and read the instructions. If you have a set method like that it might help him to process better. My husband has ADD symptoms and he has told me that when there is too much going on his brain just gets so scrambled that he can't process any more information. I wonder if something like that could be part of it? My husband is perfectly cheerful and easygoing but when things get to be too much he stops listening, or gets angry because things are just coming at him too fast! But when he has more structure, like at work, he does much better.

    Posted on Feb 4th, 2013 at 10:01 AM by MaryC

  • Hi Josie. I have a son on the autistic spectrum. He is now 21 yrs old and studying to animation at a college in Cape Town, South Africa. My first port of call when he was about 3 years old was the paediatrician and then to a child psychiatrist. He is very bright and a very loving son but he struggles socially is very anxious and obsessive about things. Also has lots of issues with taste and textures. My email address is if you ever need a sympathetic ear and some prayer support.

    Posted on Feb 4th, 2013 at 10:45 AM by Pam Van Dyk

  • Hi Josie - I'm a speech-language pathologist, and based on your description, it might be helpful to get an assessment of your son's communication skills as a first step - it sounds like it's hard for him when the verbal information isn't broken down into small steps for him. I'm in Canada, so I'm not as familiar with the system in the US for accessing services, but speaking with your child's teacher and/or pediatrician would be a great way to find out about accessing services. Good luck to you, your son, and the rest of your family!

    Posted on Feb 4th, 2013 at 11:42 AM by TM

  • My 10 year old son hates going to mass. He literally gets sick before mass and so sometimes he doesn't go. He doesn't fake being sick - he really gets sick to his stomach. When he was younger I let him read a children's Bible during mass and that kept him occupied. But now he doesn't want to read during mass and he's too old for that anyway. So he just stares into space and is really really bored. I know it would probably help if we sat in front instead of the back where he can't see but we have to sit near the back because my husband is an usher. We have a very small family and I don't want to split up for mass. He missed mass again yesterday because he was throwing up. Again, he does make himself throw up - he just gets so stressed about sitting for an hour.

    Posted on Feb 4th, 2013 at 2:31 PM by Anonymous

  • For Anonymous: Does your son react this way to other situations in which he is required to sit still? What happens/how does he behave while he is at church? If this is the only place this happens, do you have any reason to suspect that something highly emotional happened at church at one time? I'm not talking specifically about some sort of abuse --- maybe another child was really mean, or a teacher he hates goes to your church? I'm not being alarmist; I know some kids are very anxious! But that is a pretty extreme reaction to what should be a pretty neutral situation --- boring, yes, but it should be emotionally neutral. If you really think this is just boredom, why not try sitting up front, even if that means your husband can't sit with you guys? I know that isn't the ideal, but neither is the throwing up.

    Posted on Feb 4th, 2013 at 3:37 PM by Andrea

  • Hi Andrea, my son does tend to dread boring situations although mass is the most extreme of the dreaded boredom. He is not ADD and he sits quietly. I think maybe it's partly my fault because as a homeschooling mom I am always trying to make everything interesting and fun. I never take him to anything where he has to sit still for an hour. I know nothing weird has happened at our church; he has never been out of our sight. He doesn't even know anyone at church which may also be part of the problem. At our old parish he had homeschool friends and looked forward to seeing them after mass. Now it's just go, be bored and go home. I guess I will have to try sitting up front as you said.

    Posted on Feb 4th, 2013 at 3:58 PM by Anonymous

  • Anonymous- Maybe you could try going to church once a week for shorter periods of time? Confession or adoration? 20-30 minutes, or less. Start off slow and build up. Maybe let him skip mass for a couple of weeks while you all are going at alternate time. Walk around the church and look at the stained glass, get familiar with mass. Meet your parish priest and get to know him. Maybe explain to the priest what's going on and make a special effort to talk to him so your son feels welcome in church. Maybe try to make some friends in the church with kids his age so he would look forward to it again? If things go well over the next couple of months, maybe he could be an alter server. Then he wouldn't be bored!

    Posted on Feb 4th, 2013 at 9:10 PM by J

  • I have small kids at home but as I get to know more Catholic parents, I have realized that some of my most "holy" friends do not send their kids to RE. We always went to RE as kids so I always assumed my kids would go. I'm just wondering what you all do about religious ed in your families (and, we are thinking about sending our kids to Catholic school). Thanks!

    Posted on Feb 4th, 2013 at 9:13 PM by Jen

  • re: 10 year old who hates Mass: would he be interested in ushering *with* your husband? Or singing in the choir?? (I love singing in the choir and it certainly is something to "do" during Mass, but is still participatory!) Serving at the altar might not be the perfect fit if he's afraid of throwing up while he's in the front (not sure if he throws up at church or just beforehand?) Or he could maybe lector, lead the psalm, or learn to play piano/organ or some other instrument they use/need at Mass. Perhaps he could be a greeter, if your parish has those. If all else fails, could he just hang around at the door and sort-of informally be a door-opener & say goodmorning to people? He might meet some people that way - even if they are not kids his own age. For what its worth, puking over stress makes me think more is going on here. Does he feel challenged in his life? Does he have venues for serving other people (real service like working in a soup kitchen, volunteering with the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, doing yardwork for elderly family or parishoners, etc.)? I really think guys need to be worked - almost strenuously worked - as they enter their teen years. I don't mean they need to be put in any danger, of course, but I mean they need REAL causes to get dirty and sweaty about. Just entertainment and homework is going to leave a big void. Maybe he is yearning for more and the throwing up is his body reacting to the imbalance. Its amazing how many personal "problems" go away when you start serving people who REALLY have troubles in life!

    Posted on Feb 4th, 2013 at 9:35 PM by Jen

  • To the other Jen who asked about RE: we are homeschooling it. It terrifies me, as its the hugest and most important part of my kids' education! But I'm creating my own blend of Catechesis of the Good Shepherd materials, a calander for the liturgical year, and traditional books. I'm not 100% pleased with what I'm using now, so this is a work in progress... but my husband really feels that if we homeschool nothing else, we should homeschool religious ed -- we are supposed to the the primary educators in this area (according to the baptismal vows, right??!)

    Posted on Feb 4th, 2013 at 9:40 PM by Jen

  • For Anonymous, it's hard to tell in a combox what all the nuances are, so if I'm off base, feel free to ignore me. :-) But it seems to me that it could be pointed out to him that the sitting there being bored is his choice. He could choose to participate in the prayers and songs, listen to the readings, pay attention to the homily until he hears one thing that applies to him - or he can sit like a lump deciding that he hates the whole thing and won't even try to be interested. Certainly he wouldn't be the first kid ever to make himself throw up in order to get out of something he doesn't like. But given that he's over the age where he's expected to fulfill the Sunday obligation (and you said he doesn't have other issues with mental or physical health), I wouldn't just give him a pass until he decides that Mass is entertaining enough for him. You could try something like "Magnifikid" or Holy Heroes/Glory Stories so he has some activities and prior reading to increase his understanding and participation every week. You can sympathize with him that it's hard to be quiet and calm for an hour - but still insist that he make the sacrifice of an hour a week. You can present it as a challenge or some such as boys will often want to prove their abilities; it won't be the only time in life where he has to do something that he doesn't particularly like, but it has to be done anyway, so this is his "workout" for those times. Also, if he does miss Mass due to throwing up, I'd have him stay in bed - if he's too sick for Mass, he's too sick to be up playing - and just generally not make staying home the fun option. As I said, if you feel I'm way off base, ignore me, but I taught plenty of kids who were pretty talented at such shenanigans, so I'm inclined to take a tough stance on it. :-)

    Posted on Feb 4th, 2013 at 10:27 PM by Anna

  • For Jen 1: My kids all go to RE and I homeschool religion class all week. For me going to classes is super important for them to get reenforced concepts from someone else and build friendships at church more than just "mom's friends". I do not expect 25 hours throughout 1 year to be adequate formation, but I do see it as an important way that my kids are involved in the life of the parish. I actually get very frustrated when families who are otherwise great examples don't participate in RE because then my kids really don't get a chance to build relationships. And in one case superiority/not good enough feelings get felt (unintentional, but still hurtful to my 8yr old) when one child's mom won't let her come to RE. That's my 2 cents - Parish RE is suposed to work with families not in the place of and it is great for us.

    Posted on Feb 4th, 2013 at 10:50 PM by laura

  • Hi Anna, I got my son a children's missal with pictures but he won't read it (just like he lost interest in reading the Bible during mass); he prefers to just zone out. I do make him stay in bed all day if he is too sick to go to mass which he also hates but still he gets all stressed before going to mass. However, you gave me an idea that if he actively participates in mass (following the missal and saying the responses and singing the songs loud enough for me to hear them) I can give him a reward at home. I am not usually one to give my kids rewards (if feels like bribing) but this may be one incidence where it is needed until he develops a good habit of participating. It IS hard to participate when all you see is people's back so i will probable also have to move up front. To Jen: My son is scared silly of being an altar server so that would just make him more sick I think. We don't have a children's choir and all the other jobs like usher or greeter you are required to have had the Sacrament of Confirmation (8th grade). I wish I knew how to find him friends in the parish but we don't use the school. We do like and know the pastor. I think it's a great idea to get him involved in some kind of service, esp. in the parish. I wonder if they would let him help out with the pancake breakfast or coffee and donuts? I see adults doing it but I could ask. I think if he knew more people at church and participated in the life of the parish it would be all mean more. I always tell him mass isn't supposed to be entertaining and he needs to force himself to participate but that has fallen on dear ears. But you all have given me some ideas so I thank you very much! I am not feeling much more positive we can lick this thing.

    Posted on Feb 5th, 2013 at 6:47 AM by Anonymous

  • Ooops - I meant to say above I AM feeling more much positive we can lick this thing!

    Posted on Feb 5th, 2013 at 6:49 AM by Anonymous

  • Jen- Could you ask those parents why they don't send their kids to the RE? I'm not sure what I will do; it will depend on the church that we are attending. I am a more traditional Catholic, and I wouldn't want my son to go to RE at a liberal church, but if we live in a town where I want him to meet other kids his age, I might send him anyway. I definitely don't feel superior, it's just that I don't want my son to be confused. Anonymous- A ten year old should be able to sit for 1 hour. Perhaps, he has done something that he is ashamed of and feels extreme anxiety to be in Church. Did you ask him if he believes?

    Posted on Feb 5th, 2013 at 6:59 AM by MMH

  • To MMH: Yes, my son believes! No, I don't think it's anxiety over something he's done. I know how he acts when he's been naughty but overall he's a very good kid. This anxiety started when he stopped reading the Bible during mass which kept him occupied. I feel at 10 he shouldn't be doing something else during mass so I took the reading material away. It's the only time in the week where he has to sit for an hour staring at someone's back. But he's been too lazy to participate and I think if he would make the effort to participate he will find the hour goes quickly. Thus I will try rewarding him for participation, sitting in front where he can see, and getting him more involved in service for the parish, all great ideas.

    Posted on Feb 5th, 2013 at 8:20 AM by Anonymous

  • To Jen: My kids go to Catholic schools and they do not attend religious education, but it is purely for convenience. They have religion at school every day and attend Mass there twice a week, so I don't see the need to take time out of our Sunday for relgious ed. I have considered it, because the school is at a different parish than our own and it would be a way to get to know some kids at our parish better, but there is a healthy number of kids from our parish at the school, so they have never felt alone at Church. Growing up, I attended the Catholic school attached to my parish, and religious ed was only for public school students. I think it is not very necessary in terms of religious instruction, but it could help you to feel more a part of your parish if the Catholic school you are thinking about isn't associated with the parish.

    Posted on Feb 5th, 2013 at 12:03 PM by Andrea

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