My son is re­luc­tant to so­cialise and gets re­ally an­gry at home. Should I get help for him?

Irish Independent - Health & Living - - PARENTING -

MY six-year-old son is very shy and sen­si­tive. This holds him back from par­tic­i­pat­ing in things like sports, sum­mer camps and even birth­day par­ties. He also lacks con­fi­dence and has a “glass

IF you’d like to get help for your son, then, yes, you ab­so­lutely could seek a pro­fes­sional who works with young chil­dren. How­ever, an in­di­vid­u­ally fo­cused ther­apy may not be ideal for him. He may need some help that is more to do with in­te­grat­ing with his re­la­tion­ships with you and his dad (or any sib­lings, too).

As an ex­am­ple, Ther­a­play is a form of ther­apy that aims to strengthen and im­prove the se­cu­rity of par­ent and child at­tach­ments, such that a child can feel more grounded, con­nected half empty” ap­proach to ev­ery­thing. He can get re­ally an­gry and vi­o­lent around the house, and af­ter­wards he says he hates him­self and how he looks, and wants to die. I find this very shock­ing to hear. What steps can we take to im­prove his con­fi­dence and re­silience to help him feel bet­ter about him­self? Should I get help for him?

and em­pow­ered. It can be very ef­fec­tive in boost­ing a child’s self­es­teem. It seems to me, from read­ing your query, that any­thing that will help your son build his self-es­teem will be good for him.

You may even find that just get­ting some tai­lored ad­vice and guid­ance for your­selves, as par­ents, from a psy­chol­o­gist or other pro­fes­sional, may be re­ally help­ful. Such ad­vice could be struc­tured around how you in­ter­act with him at home, to help you help him, without him hav­ing to ever meet with any­one him­self. You can do the work with him to build his self-es­teem and feel good about him­self.

I was struck by the way you de­scribe your son ap­pear­ing re­stricted and un­able to get in­volved in things he may love to be do­ing, be­cause he is too ner­vous to do so, and then, per­haps re­flex­ively, get­ting re­ally an­gry at home. Per­haps he has a sub­con­scious sense that his anx­i­ety, sen­si­tiv­ity or shy­ness holds him back and is re­ally frus­trated by this.

How­ever, if he is re­spond­ing to this frus­tra­tion by act­ing out in a vi­o­lent or ag­gres­sive man­ner, he may ac­tu­ally end up get­ting lots of neg­a­tive at­ten­tion and re­sponses from you and his dad, which may, iron­i­cally, leave him feel­ing worse about him­self, rather than bet­ter. It could even feel like a very neg­a­tive spi­ral for him, and one that he can’t get off.

Even when chil­dren get some di­rect ther­a­peu­tic help, it can of­ten be hard for them to be in­stru­men­tal in chang­ing the dy­namic of what hap­pens at home. In­deed that is why a lot of my time gets taken up meet­ing with par­ents, as well as, or some­times in­stead of, their chil­dren.

Par­ents are hugely in­flu­en­tial in their chil­dren’s lives. When par­ents make changes, they tend to have a big­ger ef­fect in a fam­ily than when an in­di­vid­ual child makes a change. So, if you and your hus­band try to un­der­stand and re­spond to your son dif­fer­ently, you may find that it has a big, pos­i­tive, im­pact on him.

His neg­a­tive view of him­self does make a lot of sense, since al­most all chil­dren feel like it is their own fault when things go wrong. Even when par­ents ar­gue, many young chil­dren may be­lieve that the row was their fault. He may feel like he is mess­ing ev­ery­thing up and can’t get any­thing right!

So, your fo­cus at home may need to be re­ally warm, em­pa­thetic and un­der­stand­ing. He doesn’t need ad­vice about mak­ing friends, or how to so­cialise. He just needs lots of time and un­der­stand­ing that, for now, he finds it hard. He needs to know that you be­lieve in him and that you ac­cept him, no mat­ter how he is. Sim­i­larly, try to avoid be­ing crit­i­cal of his neg­a­tiv­ity. Sim­ply ac­knowl­edg­ing his neg­a­tive per­spec­tive and gen­tly show­ing him some pos­i­tive al­ter­na­tives might be enough to shift his think­ing style.

So, while ex­ter­nal help may be re­ally use­ful, there is also a lot you can do your­selves to help him to think bet­ter, and feel bet­ter about him­self. That boost to his self­es­teem may, in time, help him find his con­fi­dence to take ad­van­tage of op­por­tu­ni­ties for fun and so­cial in­ter­ac­tion.

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