Inherited: One Child(5)

By: Day Leclaire



“I see you’ve also had some training with special-needs.”

She stilled in the act of brushing another loosened curl away from her eyes. Her expression grew troubled. “Has Isabella always been a special-needs child? Or is today’s incident related to the plane crash?”

He hesitated, choosing his words with care. “It started after she came to live with me. I want to make sure I hire someone who can help her adjust. Frankly, I don’t think you have the necessary experience.”

“Is she seeing a counselor?”

“I don’t have much choice in the matter. CPS has insisted.”

She raised an eyebrow at his dry tone. “With good reason. Children of that age can be manipulative. If she feels like you’re cutting her some slack because of her loss, she’ll use that for as long as it works. You should also consider talking to one yourself in order to learn how to best provide for her needs.”

He leaned back in his chair and lifted an eyebrow. “Do I look like the sort of man who can be easily manipulated? Or is it just that you don’t think I can provide for her needs?”

“Look, I’m not saying you can’t or shouldn’t give her love and stability and reassurance. I’m just suggesting you don’t allow pity to make you too indulgent.” Then she grinned, the vibrant flash of it arrowing straight through to his gut. “And now I’ve moved from dispensing unwanted advice to lecturing. It’s well-intentioned, honestly.”

He knew it, just as he knew it was advice identical to that of the psychologists he’d consulted. “How would you deal with her temper tantrums? If I hire you, you won’t be able to do what you did a few moments ago and hand Isabella off to someone else. Next time you’ll be the one in charge.”

“I’ll try a variation on what I did today. Ignore her screaming when practical, making sure she can’t injure herself. Remove her from the situation when necessary, particularly if we’re in public. Afterward, talk to her in a calm fashion and make it clear that her behavior is unacceptable. In time, when she doesn’t get the response she’s hoping for, she should stop.” She offered a wry smile. “Of course, then she’ll try something else.”

Curiosity filled him. “What did you say to her before you put her out?”

“I told her that screaming is unacceptable behavior, and that there are consequences when she chooses to resort to a tantrum.”

“What sort of consequences?” His eyes narrowed. “Do you believe in spanking?”

“No, I don’t,” she retorted crisply. “Do you?”

A smile loosened his mouth before he could prevent it. “No.”

“That’s a relief.”

“So, if you don’t utilize corporal punishment, then how do you plan to change her behavior?”

He was genuinely curious, since none of the methods he’d attempted had worked. Of course, he had not been consistent, nor had he been Isabella’s main caregiver except for those first weeks immediately after the plane crash. Right on the heels of her release from the hospital, his work obligations had taken up most of his time, limiting the hours he spent with her. Plus, he doubted the interim sitters he’d employed had helped the situation. There hadn’t been any consistency in his parenting and it showed.

“Is she intelligent?”

“Highly.”

Annalise nodded. “She needs to be challenged intellectually, as well as physically, in order to help her stress level. In other words, she needs to engage in activities that will allow her to cope with her grief and confusion and work through them at her own pace. It would help to have a daily schedule that doesn’t vary, so she knows that every day she gets up at the same time, eats at the same time, goes to bed at the same time, all of which gives her a feeling of security.”

“She doesn’t have that right now.”

Annalise lifted a shoulder in an expressive shrug. “Because she’s so young she may not be able to verbalize her fears and concerns. It would help to find creative outlets that allow for that expression. Painting or coloring, games that require organization, regular exercise, other children she can socialize with so she can just be a quote-unquote child for a while.” She paused. “Does she have nightmares?”

“Yes.”

Annalise nodded, as though not surprised. “She may also revert to behaviors she exhibited at a far younger age, such as thumb-sucking or bed-wetting.”

“I haven’t noticed any of that, so far.” Well, except for one not-so-minor detail that he’d neglected to mention—her refusal to speak.

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