Nora & David

The Calm After the Storm

How an angry young boy found peace.

When David was a baby, his mother Nora tried every trick in the book to calm him down, to no avail.

Every request for change, no matter how small, would set him off. Come to dinner. Get in the car. Feed the dog. Get dressed for school. He would end up throwing multiple tantrums every day.

Nora was at the end of her rope.

“It was very upsetting,” says Nora. “I felt like I wasn’t a good mother.”

David was mad at the world. Mad at his mom. Mad at his sister. He would lash out, scream, and hit family members. He’d throw things. Break things. Smash things. All trying to provoke a reaction from his mother.

“He did whatever he had to do to get me into the fight,” says Nora.

Nora tried outpatient therapy for David when he was 18 months old, but his behavior continued through his preschool and kindergarten years. However, David was well-behaved at school, where he was a good student. His teachers never experienced the anger he so often displayed at home toward his family.

When David was in first grade, Nora, desperate for help, brought him to the children’s outpatient program at David Lawrence Centers for Behavioral Health (DLC). Before long, he was diagnosed with adjustment disorder, typified by an overreaction to change or stress.

David started meeting with a therapist at DLC — alone for most of the session, and then Nora would join them at the end. The therapist quickly learned that David liked to draw, and that it calmed him down — so she encouraged that during their sessions. She taught him additional relaxation techniques, things he could take home and practice when with his family.

Nora taped a list of coping skills to the wall in David’s room, and he started using them. The last thing on the list was vital: “Mommy and Daddy will always love you even when you are mad.”

Nora learned coping skills of her own — ways to practice patience, and methods for de-escalating volatile situations. Things began to improve.

David also expressed an interest in music, so Nora got him a piano. He immediately poured his heart and mind into learning how to play. He’d hear a song and teach it to himself. The piano became a soothing activity, a way to bring peace to his inner turmoil.

After one year in the children’s outpatient program at DLC, David is a changed boy.

“He’s a different child,” says Nora. “Now he’s not really mad anymore. He just focuses on another thing to explore to help calm him down.”

“I used to fight with my mom a lot,” says David, now 9. “But not anymore.” He says his therapist “helped me to control my behavior.”

Nora is overwhelmingly grateful for DLC’s help, and the hope and healing she and David have found.

“David Lawrence Centers is a great place to go when you feel that life is not easy and you need help,” she says. “They helped me understand that this was a problem we had to fix as a family. And that with love and patience, we could make it through.”

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