Today is my daughter's 4th birthday :) Hubs and I went to her preschool to attend her preschool snacktime with her birthday cookies. She's an only child, without any cousins or many playmates her age outside of school, so we're always eager to see how she plays with other kids.
Long story short, she's one of those kids that neither follows nor leads. She'll play with other kids if invited but has yet to invite other kids to play with her. Watching her in school today, my husband and I have a feeling that she's shaping up to be the "weird kid" growing up, the one who always marches to the beat of her own drummer.
Our main concern is understanding how best to nurture her independent spirit. We were both the same way growing up and know first hand how cruel kids can be if you're, for whatever reason, not part of a peer group. I know she may change or grow out of it but in the meantime, and if she doesn't, what are some good ways to help build her up so that she grows a thick skin?
i am not sure how you can foster such a thing... but my 'beat to her own tune' wierd child has gone through many heartaches.
i dont think you can 'avoid' heartaches. i think you build a thick skin by going thru the heartaches.
the key i think has been for us to 'be there' for her. to have a save space when dd can share whatever she wants - tears, anger, venting, frustration.
5 is an age of BIG change and that's not too far away.
the key for you to realise as a parent is that sometimes our kids just want us to be there listening to them. they dont want us to fix things. they just want to be heard.
and its important for them to talk to us and understand the healing property of 'getting it off' our chests.
There are a few books you might be interested in, if you're a reader - "Raising Resilient Children" ( http://www.raisingresilientkids.com/books/book.html) and "Hold On to your Kids" By Gordon Neufeld. The second one is not specifically about creating resilience, but it talks about attachment theory and how to create a strong base at home, so that with any luck all manner of garbage will roll off your kid like water off a ducks back. In theory, anyways ;)
eta: this is a great booklist, too http://www.parentbooks.ca/Raising_Resilient_Children.html
I've got 2 kids, both go by their own beat, but in very different ways. One is soft spoken, shy, hesitant, deep thinker, sensitive, kind of geeky. She has a small group of friends, but they are very good friends. I'd call her socially unsophisticated, and I worry sometimes that 'mean girls' (not in her group) will take advantage of her. We talk about what to do if you don't feel quite right in a situation etc. and I've make a point of having a 'village' of adults that she can turn to if she needs to talk to other grownups. I hope that having a safe, predictable community will help at some point, although we haven't had much need for it so far. Maybe just knowing that its there is enough.
My other dd has fewer close friends, and marches to her own beat - but not because she has to, just because she prefers it that way. She's very in the moment, and can't be bothered with all the social stuff that most little girls do. She'd rather grab a couple of quieter boys and play cars or something. Her I don't worry about at all. So, just being a loner isn't always a problem - as long as she's able to choose and be friends with some people.
Happy b-day to your DD!
My DS, now 6, is an only child, too (as am I), and he is and was as you describe your DD. He's got a 5-star imagination and can entertain himself for ages. He also likes to play with others at times, but doesn't need that interaction constantly. I suspect he's a balance of introvert and extrovert, which might factor in the equation.
It sounds like your daughter is content to play on her own. You mention that she plays with others when invited. Does she express any loneliness or discontent? If you're concerned about her having opportunities to socialize, I'd see if she's interested in playdates with preschool mates. If she is, that might lead to more togetherness at preschool--I think 4 is still young to initiate friendship without "help," such as getting together outside of school. Does she have any pals in the neighborhood? My DS has a best friend who goes to another school; he did need a little nudging to reach out to new school friends, too, when he started kinder last year.
I empathize with your concerns about future peer group issues. One thing that worked well for me as an only was having a few close (and lifelong) friends. That might be even more important than belonging to a group.
I read Raising Resilient Children recently and agree that it's good food for thought. The traits she's displaying now could be strong assets in her teen years and adulthood. I think you and your DH sound like you're rolling with her preferences and keeping her best interests in mind, so she's got a lot going for her right there. :)
Are you sure she's not just an introvert? At first I thought your description seemed too extreme(?) for just introversion, since I'm the introvertiest introvert I know and even I sometimes asked other kids to play when I was little. But then I remembered that I didn't have anything good or fulfilling to do at home when I was little.... IIRC, once my parents finally got me my own computer, I never invited anyone anywhere for the next ten years, lol.
There's all sorts of books about introversion, including one about raising introverted children, but I haven't read them.
You see lots of introverts complain about how extrovert-centric society is, but it's not true as far as I can tell. I think those people suffered because they had extroverted (or even just less-introverted) parents who kept trying to "fix" them. (I'm also dubious of the idea that there are significantly more extroverts than introverts. Maybe it's just where I live.)
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