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Admitting a Child to Inpatient Psychiatric Treatment: A Parent’s Perspective

Four years ago, I admitted my then-six-year-old son to an inpatient psychiatric hospital. Much has changed in four years, but reading my thoughts from the time brings it all back. It’s an experience I wouldn’t wish on any parent; one I hope I never have to live again.

From my personal blog, January 2008:

11I have a call in to a local children’s psychiatric hospital about admitting Bob on the acute-care unit in the very near future.

Things have been getting worse over the past couple of weeks. The last time I picked him up from (his father’s), he was a snarling, angry, hateful little boy who kept talking about his dad going to jail and it being my fault, and he was going to hit me in the stomach for it. He started repeating the same annoying sound over and over again and when I asked him to stop, he gave me a mean laugh and said “daddy told me to do that.” And so on and so forth.

The weekend was rough. He spent a good part of it in time out for one transgression or another. He frequently growled and yelled “I hate the world!” and “I hate all humans!” and “all mommies should shut up and go away!”

Yesterday, the principal called at noon. Bob was being suspended for the day. When I got there, he was pacing the office like a caged animal. He refused to come with me. It took both of us to remove him from school and get him into my car. I then had to physically hold him in his seat for 45 minutes to keep him from getting out and running off. He kicked me, tried to bite me, and slapped me (hard) across the face. I took him to my office where he snarled at me until (husband) came to take him home.

21Today, he said he was ready to go back to school. We met with the principal and he apologized and said he was ready to do better. I emailed his teacher around 1:00 and found out today hasn’t been much better, and the other kids in his class are becoming afraid of him. I suggested he not go to art class (he doesn’t like the teacher) and got a reply back that he’d slapped another kid and was back in the office, and wouldn’t likely be going to art.

I don’t know what to do. Therapy hasn’t helped. The courts haven’t helped. Psychiatry hasn’t helped, because you can’t spend 10 minutes a month asking a 6-year-old how he feels and expect to get the whole picture. There’s only so much I can do, because in Bob’s mind, I’m the problem. And he cannot go on this way.

Which is why I made the call.

The thought of taking my baby somewhere and leaving him, even if only for an overnight or a few days…Jesus. It’s killing me.

106 thoughts on “Admitting a Child to Inpatient Psychiatric Treatment: A Parent’s Perspective”

  1. Need help my son is 7 going to be 8 in December and his attitude if out of control we have true therapy counseling medication taking stuff away giving options make him do chores and everything is still a constant hassle me and his mother are at our wits end please give us some advice to help or lead us in a direction of a facility that can help

    1. So familiar! I don’t know where you live, but I’d recommend requesting a referral for county case management. There are so many types of services available in-home that are hard to access without case management. If you’re ineligible for it right now, there are still some steps you can take on your own. Either apply for medicaid, if you’re eligible, and if you’re not, try applying for your son (you have to have your child certified disabled as part of this process, though, so there will be much thinking and discussing to have about it, and this is another thing that is much easier if you have county assistance). Medicaid often pays for things like in-home behavior therapy, personal care attendant services, skill-building services, and generally getting people in the home to help you. It often pays for additional services in schools, too. If Medicaid isn’t available for you, ask your therapist or child’s psychiatrist for referrals to in-home services. You can all your insurance provider yourself to see what they cover as well.

      The only thing that worked for us when my son was 8 was that, the moment he started hurting us and talking about ending his life, I took him into the emergency room. He was hospitalized, and that started a whole series of helpful events. It’s an unfortunate part of our system that, sometimes, we have to hit “rock bottom” before we get the help we need. So hopefully that’s not the route you have to go.

  2. I have my 8 year old Grandson who is out of control. I can relate to all these stories. It is a constant struggle. He was born addicted to heroin and meth pot and pills. FAS..i sometimes feel like I’m crazy. He has broke my finger..Slapped me in the face punched me . I hurt my leg in a scooter accident and he would push me down and kick me in the bad leg. He has told me I going to kill you I hope you die. I have to hide my purse he goes through it. He steals sweet stuff from our pantry while we are sleeping. He has no friends.. We have had behavior coaches and counclors..He knows when to put on a show. I spent my days video taping him. To show he is doing these things. He had a 4 hour screaming fit because he wanted us to suffer. He bangs his head against the walls putting big holes everywhere..Punching himself leaving bruises…

  3. My 6 year old son is the same way he bites,kicks,yells,hits me and his dad with his fist.he has autism and ADHD. I can’t handle him by myself when his dad isn’t around.my so will also brake up his toys when he gets mad…

  4. Amanda, my heart goes out to you as you certainly have your hands full. I am not qualified to give you professional advice on your situation, but I can certainly direct you towards resources that MAY be able to help you. HealthyPlace.com has a list of hotline numbers and you might try calling them. I suggest you start with the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) to begin with. If you have medical insurance, you may also want to try contacting them–many companies offer 24-hour hotlines with registered nurses to guide you. Finally, I would contact your doctor again, explain the situation, and see if he or she can see you on an emergency basis. In the meantime, since grounding isn’t working, you might try reversing your strategy and rewarding her for a good day. Maybe an extra story, or token gift for every day she doesn’t hit. Maybe you can even work with the program to, initially, give her a reward for each activity she completes without hitting or misbehavior. Of course, this may not work, but then again, it might buy you some time until you can get into the doctor. Good luck to you.

  5. any help would be great. My daughter will be 6 on Thursday and I don’t know what to do anymore, It seems like its either my career or my child as I am a single parent with no family. this is the 8th day in a row that I have left my job to pick up her from her summer program. they call me almost every hour. but once my daughter hits someone she has to be sent home for the day. I have told her over and over again how hitting isn’t okay. and she gets grounded. What else can I do her program has had it and if I stop working we will be going into a homeless shelter and I lose everything and I have a teenager daughter I need to take care as of well. what am I missing. the love is there the time Is there shes not hungry or sleeping that is all normal routine. A little background with my daughter she will be 6 but all her tests taken says shes only developmental a 4. she has a hard time speaking but can just some words or most you can’t understand. she has adhd sensory speech and developmental delay. they won’t put her on meds until her appointment which isn’t until September. what do I do inpatient. or lose my home and my other daughter.
    any advice please

    1. I have a 4yr old that is the same way. She’s been kicked out of daycares, I am not working because she has gotten so bad that I’m scared to leave her with anyone. She is self injuring, hits, kicks, bites, breaks things and nothing has worked. She was OK until she started going back to her bio mom’s for weekend visits. She now hasn’t seen her in almost a yr and she is still becoming worse. She can not speak well enough to say what happened there, if she even remembers. I have no idea what to do anymore. Her pediatrician has tried meds and they don’t work, she doesn’t sleep either. I am at a point where if someone doesn’t help, I will have to leave my husband because I can not handle her or the stress. I am losing hair, have severe migraines on a weekly basis and dread getting up because I know nothing will change.

      1. I’m so sorry for your troubles, Jennifer. But, I will say the same thing to you that I said to Amanda–find some support. Dealing with our kids with mental illness is too difficult a job to do alone. It will burn you out and destroy relationships. I’m so glad that you found HealthyPlace.com as I believe they have some excellent resources for you. Do go to their Resource page and find a hotline. Call it. Get some advice about how to move forward. I also suggest you speak to your daughter’s pediatrician about getting connected with a therapist and/or psychiatrist if you haven’t already done so. If insurance is a problem, you may want to check with the local community clinic for referrals. Begin putting together a team to help you deal with your daughter, and take whatever small moments you can steal to take care of yourself. Even baby-steps out of the place you’re in can feel hopeful. Good luck.

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