Linda stormed off. When she had arrived at the meeting point earlier, she had noticed that her friends were engaged in a friendly chat. They had naturally ended the conversation when she appeared before them. Somehow, Linda could not contain her curiosity. When she questioned them, they told her they were chatting about their daily lives but did not see the need to repeat them to her as they were of mundane affairs. When she repeated her questions, her friends were put off by her behaviour and snapped at her. Feeling betrayed, Linda saw red and believed that they were no longer deserving to be her friends.
Why They Behave the Way They Do
Handling a highly-sensitive child can be very tiring. In their minds, they believe everything should be in black-and-white without any shades of grey in between. They have very specific ideas about how people should behave and they are not sure of what to do if they acted any way else. Egos wounded, they believed firmly that other people should never deviate from their expectations of them.
Most children look for others as “people to play with”. Bright children, however, believe in idealistic friendships which comes with incompatible and rigid expectations. This often results in misunderstandings as their cognitive maturity may not match their emotional maturity and thus, fail to understand that mistakes by friends should not be met with the severing of a friendship.
RELATED: The Highly Sensitive Child
Strategies to Cope
Your child needs time to calm down and acknowledge their feelings before they can be guided. Here are some possible strategies to start off with after they have calm down:
Identify The Role Your Child Plays
Your child may contribute to the problem without realising. For example, if your child has been gossiping about others behind their back, tattled on another child without working out the problem or refuse to accept an apology or let go of past grievances, your child needs to realise that their actions may either strengthen or weaken the relationship with the other party.
It is not out of Malice
Many times, it is easier for a child to pin the blame on others than themselves. In fact, may adults do that too. Children who are often angry assume very quickly that the actions of others are often motivated by malice. They do not stop to consider other factors such as bad timing, environment or possible issues the other child may have been facing and often meted harsh judgements to them. In this case, it is good to role play with your child on possible explanations that one may be acting the way they do in a given situation.
This is a possible situation where you can practice reasonable doubt with your child. For example,
“Crime 1” : Sally did not say “hi” to me. She’s rude!
– Maybe Sally did not see you passing by?
– Maybe Sally was thinking about something else?
– Maybe Sally was too shy?
– Maybe Sally was waiting for you to say “hi”?
– Did YOU say “hi” to her?
Everything is not in Black and White
There are many unwritten social skills during friendships. Some take it too literally and tend to scare off others. Others are unsure of what to do and believe in waiting until the relationship turn cold. When a child perceives things in black and white in a friendship, they may not realise that it takes a lot of work to preserve a friendship. Here are some active steps your child can take if they consider the relationship of importance to them:
Stop Setting Conditions
Some children tend to set conditions for friendships. Some are more materialistic such as “I will be friends with you if you stop being friends with her..” but some believe that their friends need to be improved instead ” I will be your friend if you …”. The child needs to understand that to accept a friend is to accept them for themselves – warts and all.
Using “I ” statements
This is an old piece of advice but it still works. A good way of sharing your child’s feelings with others is to use the formula below:
“I feel ____ when you ____. Please _____”
By using “I”, it identifies a specific problem and describes the required remedy. People are less likely to listen and be more defensive when they hears “Don’t do ____”. By phrasing the sentence in positive terms, the other listener is more willing to listen. One last thing to note is that this only work with people who sincerely care for your child. Others may just dismiss it altogether.
Rule of thumb: the person who is least wrong should make the first move instead so that it lessen the embarrassment for the other party to apologise. Once the apologies have been exchanged, it is vital to remind your child not to bring up the past again.