Archive | March, 2018

Why Cant my child make Friends

29 Mar

‘I am at a loss.’ She said. ‘My son has no friends.’

Its heart breaking for parents to know that their child has no friends or is never invited to any parties or spends every recess hour being by himself.

Why do some kids struggle socially while others glide effortlessly through the early social dynamics?

Its always been assumed that children naturally learn to make friends and no special learning is required in this area.

This may have been true in an era when families were large and kids learnt to ‘join in’ and engage in whatever game was being played.

Today with the shrinking size of families many children do not have this skill as their primary playmates are their parents, who indulge them and play games at the childs terms.

Such a child does not understand social cues and cannot weave himself through the social maze and hence stands on the outside longing to join in but not knowing how to.

Computer games also allow children to choose what to play and when to play which cause kids to miss out on learning valuable socialization skills like negotiating, reading facial cues, conflict resolution etc

Sometimes children are very shy or bossy – traits which alienate them from others.

With the ability to empathize not completely formed, children can be cruel and reject or exclude others which make the sensitive kids retreat into their shell.

A child who was accepted and liked earlier because the friendship was fostered by parents or based on proximity of the neighborhood may suddenly finds these ties loosening up as she/he moves on to higher grades. Here children make friends with whom they get along. Old friends sometimes get left out and this can be doubly hurtful.

Although some kids may maintain a stoic look, over time this alienation will begin to take its toll on them. They either clown around to get accepted, engage in various kinds of attention seeking behavior or day by day feel sad and disconnected.

What should parents do? Leave them alone to learn how to make friends or step in to assist them?

I believe that Parents need to take the lead when they know that their child is struggling to make friends.

  • Firstly, use Empathy. This is difficult for them. Listen and acknowledge their feelings.
  • Assess your own child – Find out what could be the reason for his/her inability to socialize. You can even check with others who regularly interact with them – like their teachers or classmates; sometimes their perspective will give you insights into the problem.
  • Be a role model- let them watch you interact with others. Being a friend is a skill that has to be learnt and some kids need to watch or have it explained to them.
  • Have a play date – Ask your child to invite someone he/she would like to play with. If you are inviting both the parent and the child, weave an activity around the meeting which will allow you to demonstrate sharing and cooperation with the child and the adult. If there is no adult accompanying the child, be at a reasonable distance from the kids such that you allow co-operative play without your interference but if the play session isn’t going smoothly you can gently intervene.
  • Read stories on friendship to your child – or tell her your own- About friends, the fun times they have, the way they handle disagreements etc
  • Pursue sports and activities where your child meets and interacts with kids his/her age
  • Help them develop basic social skills – give them pointers on – how to start a conversation with someone sitting beside them; To listen and ask questions. Allow them to practice it with family so they feel confident.
  • Assist them to build their self-confidence – Make them aware of their strengths. Encourage them to get into activities that best suit their interests and skill.
  • Explain to them that friends change – Interests change and friendships change and let them know that that’s ok! Its normal to miss the old friends but motivate them to be open to new friendships.
  • Take the help of the school. Teachers can be very creative in organizing semi structured activities which help the child have positive group experiences or get to know class mates who are more accepting.

Assisting a child to understand and cultivate friendships is as important as teaching him to read and write.

Sometimes learning and attention issues can also lead to social challenges.

Whatever be the issue, parents need to keep things in perspective and not overreact but instead provide as many opportunities as possible for children where they can learn and practice social skills.

 

 

 

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Journaling – Introducing Yourself to You

18 Mar

The one activity that is hugely accessible to most of us, is writing.

The act of putting a pen to paper is a valuable outlet for our thoughts. It helps us work through conflicts and process our feelings in a non threatening manner.

No doubt talking with a friend could be better but not always do we have that someone with whom we can talk about all our inner most thoughts and feelings. That’s when our journal can become our confidante – being privy to all our struggles and fears in a non judgmental fashion.

When our thoughts are out of our head and onto paper, the confusion and internal jumble seem so much clearer.

Writing regularly has its benefits.

  • It makes you aware of your feelings and wellbeing. With time you begin to understand yourself much better, know what makes you happy and identify the situations that stress you out.
  • As you write through your anxiety, sadness and other strong emotions, you release the pain, feel calmer and begin to process the trauma you have experienced.
  • If you were to read back what you wrote over a period of time, patterns of thinking and feeling emerge which when reflected upon allow you to understand your attitudes and your internal world.
  • It enhances emotional intelligence; Helps you to understand and interpret your emotions and see the another’s perspective.
  • It helps you organize your thoughts, prioritize your goals and needs. As you read and rewrite your goals daily they get embedded into your subconscious mind and you tend to work towards them with added zest.
  • Gratitude journaling (where you record things for which you are thankful) creates a domino effect of hope and courage; something that needs to be written about in an article of its own

For me journaling has been a powerful facilitator of self discovery.

When I journal I am able to arrange my fragmented thoughts so that I better understand myself and my interactions with the world.

After I vent out onto the pages of my journal I am able to bounce back from disquieting experiences and move forward.

Journaling is a constructive skill for youngsters to develop.

Many kids struggle with talking about their feelings. They are not sure if their feelings will be ridiculed or if its ok to feel the way they do. Writing them down gives them a safe place to park their thoughts, to explore their feelings, become more self aware and work through their inner conflicts.

As adults we need to encourage them to squirrel down their thoughts, heartaches, secrets and whatever else comes in their head. Writing gives them a voice –  An assurance that they, and all that they feel, are in a safe place.

There is no one way to begin journaling. Its about what works best for you –

A crisp new notebook, a laptop. Pick the approach that suits you.

Decide on the time you will sit down to write – Early morning before you begin your day, or at the end of the day. Try to write at the same time everyday, even if all you do write is just a few lines.

Do not pay too much attention to grammar or syntax or punctuations etc …. allow your thoughts to flow freely

For those who have trouble on how to start use prompts like …’Right now I am feeling….. or ’today was the day I …..’

Share your writing if you feel like doing so; else keep it to yourself. You are the author and the choice is yours.

As you begin your journey with written words, you will notice how your written words serve as a tool for clarity, a receptacle for thoughts and observations, and an agent of self expression.

No wonder Carolyn Hamilton said – Documenting little details of your everyday life becomes a celebration of who you are.’

 

 

 

 

 

 

How Stories open up our World

5 Mar

I would rather have a mind opened by wonder than closed by belief .                             Gary Spence

I grew up in a city; away from the culture that my mum would have loved me to be a part of.

She regularly told me stories about my cousins back in our home town. All these stories were intended to familiarize me with the life back in our native place. ‘Learn the language – everyone speaks the local language’; No jeans …. there they wear long skirts…she said. Through her stories I had created a mental picture of my cousins and I wasn’t keen on meeting any of them. Finally, the day arrived when we went to our hometown. I was startled to see my cousin wave out to me and present me with a beautiful wrist band she made herself. ‘What …. she knows English and has heard of wristbands’ – I thought to myself; I realized I knew nothing about her other interests. I had only one picture of them in my mind- shy girls in long skirts. That wasn’t wrong …. but so incomplete. Over the few days that followed, all of us had a great time together, she spoke fluent English and was fun to hang out with.

My limited view of my cousin and the life she led was the reason I never looked forward to connecting with them until that eventful trip to my hometown.

Years passed by and I got married to a man who came from a very diverse background. Both our parents had misconceptions about each others families simply because they also had just one fixed story that they believed in. Their limiting perspectives took years to widen and what could have been a truly valuable relationship never really got cemented.

If we pause to think… How often do we carry with us just one story of a person or a place …… and this constricted view restricts the essence of our interaction?

How time after time we tend to restrain our unbridled enthusiasm based on the more negative stories or beliefs that we have?

How we trap ourselves within a world based on our limited stories?

What if we were to supplement our one story with many more stories – How different would our outlook towards that person or place be?

I remember trying to decide on a vacation spot for my family and realized how bound I was because of the lone record I carried within me about an otherwise interesting place. Eventually pushing my self, I took off to this place that in my mind was associated with illegal immigrants and petty crimes. It was such a happy feeling to see that the place was so much more – streets with vibrant happy people, musical concerts, art exhibits in parks et al. Nothing like what I imagined it to be. Clearly I had heard just one part of a beautiful melody

Why do we then remain within our limiting ideas? I guess its coz we all like a sense of definiteness which gives us peace of mind and keeps away stress or fear that comes with uncertainty.

But what if we were to Enrich our minds with more than one narrative of a place or person? How would that benefit us?

  • It would help understand that there are alternate ways to living well;
  • Our tolerance would increase and we wouldn’t make assumptions based on the little we know about the matter;
  • We would get rid of the stereotypes we create, that come in the way of seeing the world as it is; thus enjoying the richness that life has to offer.
  • In relationships, the moment we associate a person with more than one narrative, we are able to give successful interaction a chance and the relationship will have the potential to grow stronger.

The benefits of being open and curious, to increase the stories we carry with us, are far too many to be ignored.

The ability to zoom out our lens and capture the richness of the world around can be energizing and a beginning, where we train ourselves to see new options and possibilities.

All it takes is a deliberate pause and a reset of the mind to discover that life is so much bigger than what we ever thought it to be.