Is your child different?

As a baby, Stephen was restless and hard to comfort yet his mother believed that he would soon grow out of this and become a normal, loving child.

By the age of three however, Stephen was impulsive, difficult to control and barely able to use language. Stephen’s Mum had to face the fact that her child needed to be handled differently from other three-year-olds; that he might never be the gentle, compliant child she had wished for. Stephen was different.

More than anything, parents want their child to be ‘normal’. When parents realise a child is somehow not like his peers, shock and grief are often the result.

Counsellor Nichola Bedos suggests ways of coping if your child stands out of a crowd.

As a baby, Stephen was restless and hard to comfort yet his mother believed that he would soon grow out of this and become a normal, loving child.

By the age of three however, Stephen was impulsive, difficult to control and barely able to use language. Stephen’s Mum had to face the fact that her child needed to be handled differently from other three-year-olds; that he might never be the gentle, compliant child she had wished for. Stephen was different.

There are many reasons why a parent may realise that a child is different and does not fit in well with other children.

Such reasons may include: -

  • Gifted kids – A child has a special intelligence which means he is reading at three and bored at school by six. Such children are often very passionate and emotionally intense, finding social interaction difficult. They are highly demanding of parental and teacher time and stand out from peers.
  • Behaviourally inhibited kids – Kids with impulsivity problems, often labelled as ADD, stand out from other kids as early as two or three when they seem overly aggressive or socially disadvantaged. Parents may find their child fails to get invited to parties and play dates.
  • Learning or developmental problems – Kids with speech delay, dyslexia, autism or other learning difficulties may be teased by their more able peers who find them ‘weird’ and ‘slow’. Parents may find the child is bullied and left out as he struggles to achieve what other kids find easy.

If your child does stand out from the playground crowd, how will you cope? Even more importantly, how can you best help your child?

You can best help yourself and your child by creating a stable, loving home for your family.

  • Calm parents help a child to remain calm and to think clearly. Kids who are ‘different’ will benefit from having parents who are able to keep their fears in perspective, to keep anger in check and to respond in a quiet, even tone of voice. If you feel constantly angry, shout at your child or find yourself responding in a highly emotional way, first take deep breaths before responding to your child. Find someone outside of the family to confide in ensuring the tension inside you is allowed to dissipate. Take an anger management course to learn healthy ways of discharging intense emotions. Exercise regularly too as this is a great way to relieve tension.
  • Find other parents like you. Your child needs for you to have access to lots of ideas and coping strategies. Join a support group, find other mothers at school with challenging kids or set up a group of your own by advertising in the local newspaper. Swap ideas, use each other for support and enjoy feeling just like everyone else.
  • Get as much help as you can - your child needs to have as much access to you as possible. Buy in whatever services you can afford to avoid spending hours cleaning, shopping, washing and ironing every day. Save your energy for your child’s needs as much as you can and prevent physical and emotional exhaustion.
  • Finally, help your child to build self-esteem and support by forming close relationships with other kids. Invite friends home from school, help out in the classroom so you can get to know the other children and help your child learn about different personalities and getting on with people. Demonstrate good social skills to your child by maintaining good friendships yourself.

Useful contacts

Gifted kids

Gifted Children Australia at www.gifted-children.com.au

NSW Association for Gifted and Talented Children at www.nswagtc.org.au

Behavioural inhibition

For all you need to know about ADD, view www.understandingadhd.com

Learning difficulties

For information about delayed development view www.devdelay.org
For information about speech delay, consult a useful article at www.kidshealth.org/parent/emotions/behavior/not_talk.html

For local help, always consult your GP and Early Childhood Centre.

Nichola Bedos is a counsellor in Sydney working with parents and infants with sleep or crying issues, prematurity and illness, post-natal depression and toddler behaviour management.

 
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