Help Me Help My Child (July 2006)

Past cases: July 2006

Here are the cases dealt with on Ruth’s page for July 2006.

Everyone told me that it was good to have a small child when I came here because it would be a help when getting to know people, but she’s shy and I’m shy.

The theory is wonderful, isn’t it? Get a dog or a baby and a whole world of friendship opens up. But it doesn’t seem to really work like that, if you’re shy. Then even if you have the baby or the pet, it is hard to start a conversation, and sometimes hard to join in one. If you want to stop your daughter having similar problems to you, now is a good time to start.

She’s new which makes her probably a bit interesting to the others in her class. See if you can find some other mums from the class and start a conversation with them – you could talk about their teacher, ask whether she or he has certain expectations, whether their children are happy, what people do after school? If you plan what you are going to say, you’ll find it easier.

So you could start by saying something like “Their teacher seems so nice and concerned” and then let the other mums tell you that she is – or is not. After that there are two possibilities: either someone will ask you to the Club, or suggest that you daughter comes to play, or you must ask them. Again, if you plan it will be easier. So ask a couple of children to come and watch a DVD or have a picnic – your daughter might find it easier if she hasn’t to say much at first. It’s probably easier to ask one child at first – if you invite two, your daughter might leave them to talk together and remain an outsider. And if I were you, I’d stay near them for some of the time so that you can make sure they have things to do.

And when Mum comes to pick the other child up, say how wonderful the child has been. Most parents enjoy hearing how brilliant their children are, and enjoy talking about themselves. Start there and soon you should have enough friends to keep you busy.

After my experience of reaching puberty with too little information, I promised myself that I would tell my daughter the facts of life. I’ll talk – she won’t.

Lots of women who found themselves in the middle of periods and bras without much warning, determine that things will be different for their daughters. And in their heads they plan a cosy scenario where Mum and Daughter go off shopping together for a first bra, chat about periods and discuss what sort of sanitary protection to use and which deodorant works best. Only to find that the daughter won’t play.

This certainly happened to me and my friends and I’m not sure why. Perhaps it has been something girls want to keep a little control over, to keep private. Perhaps we didn’t get the tone right and were too “breezy” about it or too reverential. Obviously you can’t pin her down in her bedroom and “talk”, but you can make it possible for her to learn and for her to know you are accessible.

Many children prefer to learn the facts of life from a book. There are many brilliant books, the Usborne books explain things well and are easily understandable. Buy the book and give it to your daughter saying something about how obviously she knows most of this already but she might want to check up on some things – and, by the way, you’ld be happy to talk. And casually mention that some girls start very late and some very early, and some have periods very often and others have them rarely – to start with. Talk about where you keep supplies, and later ask what she wants you to buy for her – most girls even if they don’t want to talk about it, don’t want to shop!!

And insist on taking her for a bra when she needs it – girls either seem to want a bra when there is absolutely no need, or deny the need until others are almost embarrassed. If you can make this first experience good fun, perhaps have a matter-of-fact fitting from an expert and then go for a coke together, you are on the way to helping her feel proud and pleased that she is a girl.

She may well talk to you later. . .

My son is 12 and has finally made a friend but every time he visits, something goes missing. What can I do?

It is a fairly desperate situation – you wait for ages for Jack to make a friend only to find that there is a problem.

I assume you have raised this with Jack and that he says you are making a fuss about nothing – he wants to be friends with him, don’t spoil it. That is not a bad idea if you can afford it. If you can afford it: in the short term you could keep an eye on friend so that it’s hard for him to steal. And maybe friend would become a valued and genuine friend. Of course if the things he takes are expensive like Xbox games, then different measures are called for. It’s heart-breaking if Jack is saying “Mum, he’s my only friend, no-one else talks to me” whenever you raise the issue, and he points out that if you spoil this friendship, he’ll have no-one. Explaining that a real friend does not steal, although true, will not make him feel better.

Perhaps you could start by mentioning casually in front of the friend that you have noticed that things are missing and that you are having to be specially observant. If that doesn’t do it, then you will have to consider talking to his parents. This won’t be easy but is an important next step. As a parent I would be grateful to be told that my son needed help, but you would have to be tactful and say something about things missing and you are worried that it might be to do with him . . . Whatever, this may be the end of his friendship with Jack.

Perhaps you should try talking to him and his school about how to make friends; in the long run this is the help he is going to need.

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