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My eight-year-old son is very shy.HELP!

Sue Atkins

My eight-year old son is anxious about meeting peo­ple. He used to be very shy at six, but we slowly got him out of his shell. But after the lockdown, he has again become very timid and reserved. Please help!

— Leena Saha, Kolkata

Many children are experiencing difficulty in interact­ing with peers and friends after almost 15 months of intermittent lockdowns. You need to rehearse return to normal with your son and role play people-to-people interaction. Practice and rehearse a meeting or play date with friends. Also, some children need more time to intermingle with large groups. Ease him in slowly by introducing him to a select group of friends or just one friend to restore his confidence.

Moreover, you need to wean yourself away from your son incrementally. For instance, if you’re sitting side by side, you can pretend you’ve got to do something else, like the laundry or meal preparation. You need to encourage him to start doing things without you around. This way he will gradually regain his social confidence.

I live in a joint family, and don’t like the constant com­parisons being made between my twin boys (9) and their first cousin sisters aged eight and six. I don’t want my children’s confidence to be undermined by their grandparents and aunt and uncle constantly praising the sisters over them.

— Worried mom

Most grandparents try hard to be the best grandparents possible. But good intentions don’t always translate into good deeds. Sometimes grandparents get things wrong!

Child-rearing has changed tremendously since most grandparents were parents. You need to fix a time when you won’t be disturbed for a ‘quiet chat’ with them. Prepare some points before your discussion; it will give your thoughts clarity and confidence. Avoid fault finding, blaming and upsetting them. You need to subtly convey to them that their behaviour is damaging your children’s self-esteem and confidence. Gently remind them that we are all good at some things (e.g cooking) but not so good at others (sewing) and that your children are still young and learning.

Ensure that your body language and tone aren’t con­frontational. The intention of the discussion is to gently make them realise that comparisons are odious and do children more harm than good.

My 15-year old is active on an online friends groups. But now and then, I’ve observed that she is depressed and morose. I have tried to ask her several times but she says ‘Nothing is wrong.’ How do I find out what’s bothering her?

— Manasi Sharma, Bengaluru

You need to educate your teen (and yourself) about the physical, psychological and emotional changes that hap­pen during adolescence. The onset of puberty triggers significant hormonal changes within the body. How­ever, though adolescents experience heightened physical growth, their cognitive and emotional capabilities are not fully developed until their mid-twenties. Teen children are struggling to adjust to sudden physical changes, and also trying to cope with rapid emotional changes and societal pressures. Therefore you and your 15-year-old need to know that some mood swings and unpredictable behaviour are normal during the turbulent adolescence years.

My advice is that you spend quality time with her doing non-stressful enjoyable activities; this will prompt her to open up and communicate her fears and anxieties to you. And most importantly keep the home atmosphere light — don’t push and nag her. She will talk to you when she’s ready.

(Sue Atkins is a UK-based internationally recognised parenting expert, broadcaster, speaker and author of Parenting Made Easy — How to Raise Happy Children (2012))

Also Read: Coping with pandemic anxiety

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