My son has recently started at a new preschool and seems to be having a bit of a rough time. I don't really know what to make of it.
For example, when I pick ds up from school, I ask him "how was your day?"...he usually responds with "not so good, Johnny stuck his tongue out at me" or "Suzy wouldn't let me help pick up the blocks."
He'll then go on in length about how that made him really mad and upset and that he doesn't have any friends and nobody likes him.
I'm trying to help my son not be so sensitive, but I don't know if I'm going at it the right way. When a kid sticks their tongue at him, I said "just laugh and tell them that that's a funny thing to do...why would you stick your tongue out?" or if someone won't let you help them with something just say, "wow, thanks! now I can go do this instead!" When I tell him these things he'll either laughs about it or cry and yell about it...there's no telling. I'm also trying to teach him that he can just walk away and ignore things. He tends to like to hang around until things escalate.
He's always been a pretty much all around sensitive kid, but I'm worried that his sensitive responses to the smallest of insults will put a target on his back so to speak when around other school kids.
How do you help your 4 yo not take offense to what seems like every little thing?
If you feel he's too sensitive you might respond
to him with statements about your own day that
describe little things that you manifest don't really
bother you much at all as if to say, "I hear you, I've
got tiny annoyances in my life too. No bigee."
He might be responding to you to test your reactions.
Maybe you could also ask the preschool teacher(s)
how he does during the day.
"Let us put our minds together and see what life we can make
for our children." ~ Tatanka Iotanka
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I would agree with the suggestion that you not give much weight to the situations that brings out your 4 y/o's sensitivity. I've been known to say things to my DS1 as flippant as, "You know kids do lots of silly things for no good reason." I've also given him lots of instruction in, "just ignoring it." When he was 4, it seemed like too much discussion of motivations or possible responses could just escalate his anxiety ("Well, if I say that, he might say...", etc.)
But, mostly, I got on here because your subject line got my attention. My DS1 was *super* sensitive and very anxious about social situations and the status of friendships when he was 4... 4 years old seems like a very tricky year for sensitive kids. So I'm very happy to report that super-sensitive 4 y/o is now a 6 y/o who just started school for the first time and is shocking me every day with how well he's "rolling with the punches."
I don't think I would have believed 2 years ago that he could become the easy-going kid he is today. You're doing a great job and I'm sure he'll find these situations easier with time... (But even as I write that I know all too well how stressful it can become in the meantime...)
Thank you for the responses!
I'll try to just give general supportive responses instead of specifics.
He does seem to really respond well when I tell him about my own social experiences when I was 4. He mostly just likes to hear the stories and get a good laugh to ease his nerves.
Every day this week he came home in tears saying "nobody likes me...I have no friends". Totally breaks my heart. I plan on talking to his teacher on Monday to find out what's going on during the day.
Often times when I arrive to pick him up, he just starts sobbing and will say it's over something very small, but I think it's more of a stress relief when he sees me, you know what I mean? I'll stand inside the school and watch him play outside (they're outside playing when we pick them up) for a few minutes before I walk outside where he can see me, and he appears to be having fun and doing fine...but then once he sees me, something inevitably happens that causes him to break down in tears.
Anyway, thanks again and keep the suggestions coming! I really have no idea on how to deal with this.
I was a little like this as a child. I can't give you advice, but I can give you perspective. A kid like this might be able to walk away but he *cannot* ignore it. I don't know what made letting go impossible for me, I just know it was. It might have helped if my mother didn't brush off my over-sensitivity. Definitely talking about it without judgement would have helped. Perhaps after years of this I might have eventually learned to not have it bug me in the first place. But there it is. Perhaps it can be dealt with, but it cannot be ignored.
"Let me see you stripped down to the bone. Let me hear you speaking just for me."
A couple of random thoughts:
He JUST started a new preschool and so he's probably very tired at the end of the day. He's been 'keeping it together' in a somewhat strange situation all day (all morning?) without you. Even if things went swimmingly all day, he'll have stress. His picking out small details to cry over might be his 'excuse' to cry, but not the real reason. It's OK to cry to relieve stress. Maybe all you 'need' to do is hug him and love him through it.
'Friend' has a fairly vague definition at this age -- usually it means 'someone who I played with or want to play with'. So, I would definitely talk to the teacher and see if she can pair him up with some likely kids who share some of his interests. My slow-to-warm-up, highly sensitive son did really well with kids who were slightly more outgoing that he was, but liked the same stuff. He was too reticent to seek them out, but if they sought him out, it was heaven. His best friend is still a boy he got to know at 2 in daycare. They bonded over playing garbage truck. This boy is a bit more outgoing than ds, but highly imaginative and interesting.
One thought for getting him to see that it's not that big of a deal is to ask him questions. So, if X stuck out his tongue at him, you can say "Oh, that's not very nice is it. Did he stick out his tongue at anyone else?" "Was anyone else helping Suzy pick up the blocks?" What you hope to build up over a period of time is his ability to see that this behavior isn't directly only at him. It's not OK behavior and the school should be dealing with it, but at any given moment, your average 4 year old can do something fairly rude to another kid without realizing the full impact. They're learning to use the power of language and gesture, and they're a bit like Bullwinkle (they don't know their own strength).
Ask the teachers to watch to make sure no one is excluding him.
I'm not sure that anything other than time will help him 'roll with the punches'. My 7 year old is still working on that. (Funny, she was a really happy-go-lucky toddler, and did OK in daycare. But as she's gotten older and her sense of what's right and wrong has matured, it's very hard for her to get past slights (a.k.a. perceived injustices) that she's suffered.)
Thanks again everyone!
LynnS6, you've nailed my son to a tee.
I talked with his teacher this morning and she said that he's doing great throughout the day. It's just at the end of the day, right around the time I come to pick him up, he seems worn out and is much more quick to tears. I think he's still just adjusting to the new schedule. His old school he went from 8:30am until noon, and at this school they go until 1pm. That extra hour seems to really make a huge difference for him. He eats his lunch at school, but he is very easily distracted so I asked the teacher to keep an eye on him to make sure he's actually sitting and eating during lunch. Hungry and tired are an awful mix.
I agree that crying is a good way to relieve stress and that I'm sure this is what my son is doing. I'm ok with him crying and saying that he's tired or hungry or upset, but I'm not ok with him blaming other people for his feelings, you know what I mean? I know this is a very complicated thing for a four year old, and I don't expect him to be able to recognize his feelings right away and express them in an appropriate way...but we have to start somewhere and I want to continue to work with him and give him the tools he needs to be happy and at ease in social situations and to know when he needs a break and to just step away.
Thank you, SweetSilver for your insight. It's very helpfu to sometimes reflect back on our childhoods and try to remember how we felt during those rough times and how we dealt with them. I would never ask my son to ignore his feelings, what I meant was to try to ignore the situation and walk away if it's bothering him...I just want him to have a better way of dealing with things, but I can see how he may perceive me saying that as asking him to ignore how he's feeling. Thanks for pointing that out, SweetSilver. I too am a very sensitive person and I still struggle with letting things go. My mom did a pretty good job about validating my feelings and she would usually give me good one liners to say which I think helped me a lot. I would usually be so flustered I wouldn't know how to respond, so knowing the appropriate words to use was quite helpful.
Thanks again everyone! After talking with his teacher this morning I'm feeling much better about things. It seems to be mostly a tired and hungry issue, so that's easy enough to resolve.