We are experiencing a period of regression with Gilbert at the moment. A time where he is so stressed out that he is returning to past obsessions and special interests to find comfort and normality in the new.

We first saw the signs in New Zealand. While he ended up coping with our first overseas trip far better than we ever imagined, he found his own way of dealing with the stress and anxiety that came with it.

For Gilbert, he saw a payphone at Sydney airport the night before we departed which ignited his long dormant interest in them again.


There was a time when he was between the ages of 4 and 6 where payphones were everything to Gilbert. His grandfather works for a telecommunications company so Gilbert was lucky enough to be the recipient of payphone paraphenalia and all sorts of information that he would pour over for hours at a time.

He could tell you about the differences between Telstra payphones such as the Clearline Plaza, Boulevarde and Streetcab. Whenever we passed by one he HAD to try it out and read the instructions – the same instructions that adorned each one. He would show us the pamphlets and describe in great detail the good and bad points of each model.

Telstra streetcab payphoneย image source

Eventually the interest died out, replaced by new interests in space, the human body, musical instruments and history. Just like his earlier interests in pedestrian crossings, speed humps, street signs, travelators ย and ATMs. For Gilbert, his obsessions seem to ebb and wane but they never truly die. He will always have a soft spot for everything he has been particularly tied to.

However, this is the first time he has returned to a previous interest with such focus and energy.

In New Zealand, he found comfort in a payphone at the caravan park we stayed at in Taupo. He didn’t get the deep fried hotdog he was after one evening after misbehaving and found comfort and calm in the aftermath by wandering around near the caravan park’s payphone. He had to go up and say goodbye to it when we left and then had to stop at every payphone we encountered on the rest of our trip.

Since we arrived home his interest has not waned. Yesterday I was requested to Google pictures of payphones for him and he demanded to be taken to one on Sunday morning which led to an epic meltdown. This also coincided with him reminiscing about his time at ASPECT when he caught the train at Cardiff and visited all the payphones on the way.

Upon deeper questioning (using techniques I am learning as part of the Cool Kids program for anxiety – more to come on that!) he revealed that he felt life was easier when he attended ASPECT, before his last two teachers “betrayed” him (by moving onto to other classes).

I asked the psychologist about it at our last visit and he agreed that it should be a short-lived return to his special interest but it seems to be getting more intense more than anything. It really has been a rough start to the year for my big boy. He started off okay but had a few days off last week due to stress and anxiety. Apparently the work is too hard, although, thankfully, he likes his new teacher.

All we can do is be there for him and support him as best we can.

But it’s hard watching your child go backwards due to stress and anxiety.


Do you have any tips for halting regression in your child? If you do, I’m all ears!


Linking up with Jess for IBOT.

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26 Responses

  1. Ahh I wish I could help you. It must be hard for you to watch and worry about how long it will continue for. The Cool Kids program sounds fantastic. I really hope they can help your little boy and you work through this stage. Best of luck!

  2. No tips just hugs – you are doing a great job as supportive mum. i look forward to hearing more about cool kids though as we have to deal with anxiety here as well (10 yo was in tears on the way home from school yesterday because while she was getting a pencil her group in her class divvied up the assigned items to bring in for a science project – she was give the “4 bbq trays” because no one else had them. it freaked her out the pressure and the not having and the not knowing” I told her that this was for me to handle and not to worry – amazing how anxiety can work some kids into a state – as an adult sufferer I hate seeing her struggle so young) more hugs hon xx
    Deb @ Home life simplified recently posted..3 Ways to Cultivate More Joy in your Life

    • Kirsty says:

      It so hard, isn’t it? I will definitely be blogging about our experience with the Cool Kids program as it’s really started to make a difference already. Let’s hope it continues…

  3. Gosh I don’t really have any advice because I am sure you aer doing everything you can to reduce his anxiety. It is tough at the begining of the year and changes. I hope it is temporary and he starts to pick up again soon. x

  4. Oh Kirsty, no advice here, but I’m glad your big boy has such a caring mama to be there for him. Good news that he likes his new teacher. xx

  5. This sounds like such a difficult thing for both you and your Son. I wish I had some magic words to make it easier for you all. All I can say, is it looks and sounds like you are doing a fantastic job. Keep up the great work xxx
    Nicole @ Life Living recently posted..I Went Shopping to Buy a Gift For Prince Charmings Ex-Wife

  6. iSophie says:

    I have no tips but wanted to tell you how amazing you are and he will get through this with you, because you are seriously awesome.
    It must be heartbreaking to watch, I hope things improve quickly and not become too much worse. #teamIBOT
    iSophie recently posted..Ziggy Stardust – An introduction

    • Kirsty says:

      Thanks Sophie. The start of the year is always rough but I think we complicated it this time around by challenging him in the holidays with our overseas holiday. Fingers crossed he does become more settled and less stressed soon x

  7. Tegan says:

    I hadn’t noticed that Dyllan’s behaviour was regression until the psychologist pointed it out. The main issue for us is that he has stopped wanting to go to Daycare, despite him enjoying himself when he gets there. One technique she gave us was called VRI, which is Validate, Reassure and then Ignore. I’m not sure if it would work for Gilbert but it has worked well for us and the tantrums when ‘school’ is mentioned don’t seem to be as bad.
    Tegan recently posted..Borderline: My Story

    • Kirsty says:

      That sounds like a practical strategy Tegan. I will definitely look into that and see how I can apply it to Gilbert. SO glad it is working for your son!

  8. Lisa says:

    I highly recommend Mackee chiro, Nate suffers anxiety and stress and this is our only real help

  9. Kathy says:

    Sorry to hear that things have gone backwards for your son. Hope the Cool Kids program gets you heading in the right direction again, or at least coping better with the way things are right now until they improve.
    Kathy recently posted..Resilience

  10. Twitchy says:

    Ah yes, reverting to old favourites in times of crisis. It makes sense, doesn’t it, finding comfort where you have before? We know this. Mr14 still has his comfort items.

    You sound so patient and caring, Kirsty.

    I don’t really have any formal advice for you, except maybe the suggestion of finding any relevant literature or books for the current interest that can be given at bedtime for perusal. Perhaps the delayed gratification would give him something positive to look forward to, together with the association with relaxing? Good luck. #teamIBOT
    Twitchy recently posted..My Kids Say The Darndest Things

  11. Sheridan says:

    You are such an amazing mum! I don’t know what I would do in that situation. I really respect your ability to be a wonderful mum even when it seems so difficult.
    Gilbert seems like an incredibly child and I really hope that his anxiety eases as he adjusts to being back home from your trip, new class, new teacher and all that a new year brings with it.
    Visiting from IBOT
    Sheridan recently posted..My Gratitude (b)Log

    • Kirsty says:

      Sheridan, he is an incredible child and that makes it easier to work through all the hard stuff. I just want him to be happy – I guess that’s what we all want for our kids!

  12. Oh lovely you are such a patient soul, I’m sorry to hear Gilbert has regressed and while I have no expertise, maybe it’s a combination of so much change, I hope you get some answers. Until then, be kind to yourself, you’re an awesome mumma xx
    Emily @ Have A Laugh On Me recently posted..A few of my secret websites to help freelance writers and bloggers!

  13. Oh Kirsty, how tough it must be watching Gilbert regress ๐Ÿ™ And how I can relate ๐Ÿ™ Our Sades is retreating more and more inside her own shell and I feel so powerless to help her. We’re having lots of external input from her psychologist and social worker and they *tell* me I’m doing all the right things, but man it’s hard not to second-guess. The Cool Kids program sounds interesting, I’d love to hear more.
    Emma Fahy Davis recently posted..Still Not Good Enough

  14. Zita says:

    Oh I wish I had some miraculous words of wisdom for you… Am glad that he likes his new teacher and hopefully that will be a saving grace in halting the regression any further. From what I can tell you are doing an amazing job and everything you can. To be honest, in my job, it scares me how many children are suffering from anxiety these days, but with amazing parents like you I am sure he will be ok.. Good luck.
    Zita recently posted..for my second book review…

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