My eight-year-old son is a loner. He doesn’t have the confidence to make friends. How do I get him to become more social and outgoing?
— Vinu Thomas, Chennai
There are several ways you can support your child:
- Gently encourage him to participate in social activities/events. Praise him for his attempts.
- If he has an anxious reaction to a social situation, speak positively and help him overcome his anxiety.
- Don’t punish or scold him for failing to behave as expected. Praise the effort.
- Avoid speaking for your child. Even if it takes some time or hesitation, it’s important he speaks for himself.
- Tell your child’s school teacher about his social anxiety and request her support.
- If the situation doesn’t improve, consult a psychiatrist or clinical psychologist for screening him for communication and anxiety disorders.
My ten-year-old daughter keeps forgetting to finish her homework and other chores but otherwise she is normal. Is there cause for worry?
— Vinaya Shiva, Bengaluru
I understand your concern. There could be various reasons why she is forgetful and/or paying inadequate attention to her homework and other tasks. I suggest you consult a psychiatrist who will conduct a detailed evaluation and check for learning disabilities, attention deficit hyperactive disorder, etc. Don’t delay the consultation as early intervention yields better prognosis and treatment.
My child is anxious as she is shifting to a new school from the new academic year. Will this move adversely affect her mental health?
— Disha Agarwal, Pune
It’s natural for your child to be anxious about moving to a new school. Here are some ways you can smooth this transition:
- Encourage her to discuss her fears and anxieties with you. Reassure her this is normal.
- Talk positively about the new school, highlight its plus points.
- Check if you can introduce her to some classmates in the new school. Try to set up playdates with them.
- Visit the school with her so it looks familiar.
- Share stories from your school days and extracurricular activities that you enjoyed. Highlight extra-curricular activities at the new school.
- Practice school-related activities or processes, such as trying on the uniform and browsing through class textbooks.
My four-year-old daughter is very attached to me. Sometimes I have to leave her with my in-laws, during which time she becomes very irritable and cries a lot. Please advise.
— Mrinalini Sinha, Mumbai
Separation anxiety is a normal part of a child’s development. It begins at eight-12 months and recurs multiple times until age four/five. Your child’s unwillingness to leave you is a good sign that healthy attachment has developed between the two of you. But she gradually needs to overcome separation anxiety. Reassure her that whenever she is with others, it’s temporary, and you will return to collect her. It may also help to leave her with relatives initially for short durations so that she gets time to develop coping skills.
(Dr. Sudharani P. Naik is a consultant psychologist for the District Mental Health Programme — Mysuru; Viveka Psychiatry Clinic and Aashritha Hospital)