herald

Wednesday 7 December 2016

The Parent Zone: ‘My four-year-old son likes pink but wants to keep it secret from his pals’

'School can be a difficult place for some children'
'School can be a difficult place for some children'

A four-year-old wants to keep his penchant for pink secret from his friends.

Q: My four-year-old son likes pink. He has recently said that he doesn’t want anybody to know this  because he got slagged in school.

I am always trying to encourage our child to be comfortable with himself in all aspects of life, but how do you deal with this kind of school pressure without isolating or dismissing what goes on in school environments?

A: The issue here is not that your son likes the colour pink; it is the fact that he has been slagged in school and is now unhappy and upset.

No parent should ever dismiss what happens in the school environment. School can be a difficult place for some children. All schools have firm policies about bullying.

I am not saying that your child has been bullied, but his experience in school has clearly caused him distress. You need to bring this to the attention of his teacher.

Our primary schools have a rich curriculum that enables teachers to use it to assist in the adjustment of children. Perhaps the teacher can organise a “pink art project” or a “pink dress-up day”.

Discussion and investigation of the use of the colour pink may be interesting to all children. I am suggesting that there are many ways to deal with what has happened to your son outside of a direct focus on him.

I wonder about the context of him being slagged in school about pink. Was he wearing something pink?

It would be useful for you to know exactly what happened to cause him upset. Once you do, you can bring it to his teacher’s attention and I’m sure it will be dealt with successfully.

Some children are overly sensitive and easily upset.

If your son is one of those, it is best to encourage him to learn how to cope with difficulties. This takes time.

Remember, you are a role model for your child and how you cope with pressure will be teaching him how to do the same.

I don’t think there is a serious problem here. Keep your interventions low-key and talk with the teacher.

The topic of pink isn’t likely to come up so often in your son’s life, so it’s likely he won’t have to confront his worry directly on a regular basis.

I think the best way forward in this situation is to assure him that he can talk about whatever he wants in school — as long as the topic is

appropriate — and that you and his teacher will be there  to see he isn’t teased about it.

Q: I’ve moved in with my parents because I lost my job. It seems to be going well. I have a daughter who is five years of age and am a single mother. I just find it difficult now when I tell her to go to bed and she tells me that granny says she can stay up.

I have gritted my teeth up until now, but it has taken me ages to get her into a routine and I don’t want that to change.

A: There probably is no harder work in the world than being a single parent. The needs of children are intensive. The pressure to provide for and care for them is equally intensive.

You have had some serious stressors in your life with the loss of a job and moving in with your parents, and you need to remember that all this change is stress for your child too.

It is important that you have a frank conversation with your mother.

Consistency, reasonable consistency, is important for children. In particular, the bedtime rituals and hour of bedtime is very important for any young child.

Living with your adult parents, while at the same time trying to parent your child, is difficult under any circumstances. Your mother needs to learn to respect your routines and rules so long as they are reasonable.

A good night’s sleep is important for children.

I don’t see any alternative for you except to have a pleasant conversation with your mother about your child’s bedtime routine. Once both of you agree on it, the problem will quickly disappear.

There is no need to get into an argument about this.

You say you have “gritted your teeth” until now over this. That is a clear indication you are getting frustrated and angry.

Take time to calm down and realise the problem isn’t all that serious. Once you are calm, it will be easier to talk with your mother calmly.

Also, I suggest that you react calmly when your daughter tells you that your own mother has different rules about bedtime.

You can simply let her know in a low-key manner that sometimes people do have different rules but that mommy’s rules are the ones she is going to live by when mommy is there.

You only have to say it once. I’m sure she will get the idea.

David is a psychologist; send your questions to davidcarey@herald.ie

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