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Current Issue of BDINews
Caring for the High Maintenance Child
By Kate Andersen.

Friendship. January, 2018.
Dear Kate:
I have 12-year old twins in special education who have completely opposite learning disabilities.....
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by Kate Andersen

Dr. Jerome Kagan has described a group of very shy children, whom he describes as "inhibited". In his research he has found physiological differences in these youngsters from infancy. Other research has suggested that such children may retain the physiological component of their shyness even if they have learned to become more outgoing in their behavior. More recent studies have been looking into whether the physiological substrates may also be changed with experience.

One of Dr. Kagan's conclusions has been that children who are overprotected tend to remain inhibited whereas those subjected to small, manageable amounts of stress such as firm discipline may become less shy. It is novelty which stresses inhibited children and new social situations tend to cause them to withdraw. Some youngsters will cry and fuss in the hope that they will be removed from the stressful situation. Wise parents recognize the challenges in fostering social relationships with such children.

Taking the lead from the child's cues is an important first step and parents know that they need to take a gradual approach when introducing their child to new social situations. An equally important step is realizing that children do not always know what is best for them and recognizing that teaching them to tolerate social stress in small doses will facilitate healthy development. A number of parents of inhibited preschoolers find that, because of the practice of gradual entry and the skill of preschool and day care teachers, they are able to introduce their child successfully into group care. They find fostering genuine friendships more challenging. A good practice is to ask the day care teacher if there is any child noted to play near or with your child.

Then invite that child to come over on the weekend. At first this visit may seem to be unsuccessful, with your child withdrawing to his room and behaving as though he or she had never met the child from day care. Remember that your child reacts with stress to new situations. Seeing the child from day care in the home is a novel event for your child! Preparation beforehand, a very short visit the first time, and some ice-breakers such as bubbles to blow, a much-loved video or a special treat can help. Then the key is to repeat this visit soon (preferably within a couple of days) and to maintain it frequently.

Your child may cry and fuss but don't decide too early that this means that he or she does not like the other child. If the teacher reports that they play alongside each other in day care, that is a more reliable guide than your child's stress-based reactions to the novelty of seeing this child in the home. Respect your child's unique way of socializing. An inhibited child may be quiet in play and not show as much overt enthusiasm as a child with a more outgoing temperament. He or she may prefer shorter playtimes and may avoid boisterous play or play that he or she finds frightening.

He or she is often likely to seek out another relatively quiet child although sometimes opposites attract (as Kate and Sandy illustrate)! There are many valid ways of having fun and many different styles of friendship. Your quieter child may get a very big kick out of making friendship cards for his or her new pal and sending them by real mail. He may not feel as shy talking on the phone although some shy children do have difficulty with this. Using the mail or the telephone can help maintain the friendship during times when frequent visits are not possible. Exchanging pictures with each other is often popular. Finally, keep in mind the fact that your less outgoing child may never have many friends but prefer instead to develop a deeper, closer relationship with just one or two other children. This is perfectly fine and healthy.

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