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How to support a sensitive child, but stop short of encouraging over-sensitivity?

(10 Posts)
Earlybird Tue 18-Sep-07 03:51:10

DD is 6.8, and began at a new school in a new country about a month ago. There are huge adjustments to be made in almost every area of her life, and of course I want to be supportive in any way possible. (We have cousins here and have spent lots of holiday time here in the past, so not completely unfamiliar.)

Early on, there were a few unpleasant incidents with children at school being mean, and I had to ask the teacher to address the low level bullying. The teacher was very supportive and dealt with it immediately, and the treatment seems to have stopped - certainly the culprits are no longer behaving in the same way, and do not feature in dd's conversation.

However, dd seems to be in a phase (please god let it be a phase) of coming home every day and telling several stories of how she was snubbed, ignored, made fun of, etc. I have been (and will continue to be ) very sympathetic, but am starting to wonder if she's veered into persecution/victim mode.

There are daily tales of 'no one wants to play with me at break', which springs from getting one negative response and then giving up/retreating in a wounded manner to a bench where she sits alone (instead of scampering off to find someone else to play with). Today it was the fact that she told a boy she was afraid of dogs, and he then told the entire class her 'secret' and 'everyone was staring at her' (she's only afraid of dogs she doesn't know, but clearly wasn't able to articulate that). Another time, a boy was spitting in the classroom and somehow her squeals of protest resulted in both of them being told off. (Who knows why she didn't simply move away or say 'stop spitting'). Etc.

How can I be sympathetic, but also help her toughen up a bit and learn how to deal with things - or get her to shrug things off and take them in her stride? She didn't behave this way at her old school where she was well liked and 'fit in' - perhaps she is struggling to find her place and adjust in the new situation? But it sometimes seems she might be unconsciously 'playing' on her outsider status as an attention seeking ploy, as if eliciting pity/sympathy is her guaranteed trump card if she's feeling anxious/insecure.

I also wonder if the fact that she is an only child means she doesn't know how to deal with the normal rivalry, friction, flippant comments, and teasing that siblings regularly dish out to each other and those around them. She seems completely unable to deal with things in any way other than a full on retreat.

Anyone experienced anything similar, and have some good strategies to suggest? What can I do to help her deal with things better in the moment, learn to put things in perspective, and be more resilient?

law3 Tue 18-Sep-07 09:40:46

hi ya, must be difficult for her, lots of change. But i know what you mean about too much sympathy could aid to 'victim' mode.

When she tells you the stories of people being mean etc, i would say if i were in that situation this is what i would do and give her an example of how to handle it, ie if no one wanted to play with me at break, i would.................

I dont think being an only kid would have too much affect, as you said she learnt how to deal/cope with it at her old school. Im sure she will settle in.

Earlybird Tue 18-Sep-07 12:19:17

Thanks for your thoughts law.

I have been doing some role play (as you suggest) to give her some alternative responses to challenging comments/behaviour, and perhaps it will help. Sometimes it's difficult to imagine other ways of reacting besides the obvious black and white. I know I'm often lousy at 'in the moment' issues, but am fantastic at the 'wish I'd done/said this instead' - maybe it's hereditary? grin

Other thoughts?

Earlybird Tue 18-Sep-07 16:08:13

Bumping for any further thoughts...

binkleandflip Tue 18-Sep-07 16:20:41

my dd is 5 and quite sensitive - and I hate to say it but I think I have influenced her a bit in that way.

When she started school I would ask who do you sit with, who have you played with etc and be upset if she said no-one had played with her. Then I find out that she has been playing with her friends all along - it was me being over-sensitive and taking it as read that she was being outcast.

She is an only child and I do think the tendency is to coddle her a little (perhaps its the same for you?) and worry about her socialising with others but I'm trying to chill out a bit now and accept that she isnt exactly miss popularity at school (you know the one who everyone wants to be friends with) but she has a little group that she is very much part off and if they fall out then thats normal and ok.

Not much help I suppose but just wanted you to know you are not alone smile

Earlybird Tue 18-Sep-07 20:49:16

Thanks for your thoughts binkleandflip. I am sensitive too, so your insight about transferring that to dd might be on target.

Maybe it would help to 'lead' her a bit via the tyupe of questions I ask. For instance: 'what did you do today that was fun?' or 'what did you like best today' might help her think more positively about her day at school.

Any other feedback or practical suggestions from the night crowd?

nwd Wed 19-Sep-07 11:48:20

Hi, I have never posted to this group (or read it before), but I happened accross your post, and it has resonance for me.
My daughter (just turned 6) went through a longish phase just like this last year (for about 6 months). We still have days like it. She is also an only child.
After speaking to her teachers, and the other kids' mums (to check that my daughter doesn't have a reputation for being 'tricky'), I have deicded that my daughter is not actually experiencing a worse situation than most of the kids in her class. She has her up days and her down days in the playground. I think the difference is that my daughter is very aware of her feelings, and very empathetic / sensitive - in other words she takes things more to heart than a lot of her peers, and also, possibly because she is an only child, she is used to sharing all of her feelings with me. So I get to hear her every little worry.
My advice would be:
1) Don't stress about it in any way that she will pick up on, because you can make more of a problem than it is.
2) Ask her teachers and other parents for their honest opinions about where your daughter is socially in her class.
3) Don't quiz your daughter about what happened today in the playground. I have learnt that if I don't ask how playtime went, my daughter maybe complains once a fortnight about a bad playtime, rather than most days if I ask her how it went. (This goes for school days too - she can come bouncing out of school in a perfectly sunny mood, and then I ask her how school was today, and she'll say "Fine!"...pause..."but Matilda was bossy to me and Joanne wouldn't let me play with her and..." I don't ask too much now, and rely on her telling me when it is really a problem (which she does. SHe knows I'm alwYs ready to listen)
4) We did a bit of role play too, and that helped a lot. And also some planning for tactics - eg she had targets for friends to move on to if a certain group of friends excluded her.
5) Invite friends, especially the 'difficult' ones round for a play date. This helps a lot!
6) Relax. It will pass. If your child was having real trouble socialising, the school would have commente to you by now.

Hope that helps!


Lorayn Wed 19-Sep-07 12:02:03

My DD is 6.8 and nearly always complains about someone if I ask her about her day, yet I know from other parents (I have a friend who is a dinner supervisor) that she is a very happy girl at school and never sits alone for more than a minute or two!!

The only thing I can suggest about 'toughening' her up a bit is to take her to play area's and not to make a fuss.
Try to sit down , away from her, and leave her to go play on her own, without running over every time you hear a noise/sh another child/see her ready to come down a slide that seems way too steep etc.
And when she does complain about things give her a way to deal with it, I don't like to judge so please don't think I ma, but were you the kind of parent that picked her up at every trip, cuddled her for every cry etc?? I know friends of mine whose children are more sensitive, seemingly because of this, they did it through love, but more often than not if they just let the child be they would get up and run along without the need for a hug, yet if mummy gave it the whole 'aww, sweetheart are you ok' type thing, they would play up to it , kind of.

It's hard to find the right medium between over protecting and not protecting enough!!
Good Luck.

Blu Wed 19-Sep-07 12:14:16

DS is 6.2 and for a while has dealt with things that cause him anxiety by telling me that things have happened, when really, all he has done is run the possibility through his mind that they might happen. I was told several tales of bulling when he started Reception- that could not possibly have been true. (and weren't - it's not me not listening / believing). Now in Yr 2 he is feling quite pressured by the new environment and we have heard other tales of playground trauma.

I deal with it by talking about the underlying you do not have to get all your work right and / or finished all the time, everyojne makes mistakes sometimes, etc etc, and talking through what someone could say if someone else told thier secret etc. So, giving him the tools without going overboard on sympathy for the incidents.

DS is also an only child, but in RL copes v well socially in all the hurly burly - but I wonder if he does lack a confidante and role model in sloughing things off. However, as an eldest child myself, i thnk that it is younger children who benefit from that in a family, so oldest or only children are equal in that respect. All the grown-up oldest children i know are the least 'muck in like puppies in a basket' in the family - me included.

Blu Wed 19-Sep-07 12:16:05

I completely agree with nwd's points, by the way - especially not asking if no info is volunteered. DS will always rise to the occasion with something imagined if there is nothing else to report!

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