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5-year-old can't express her feelings

 
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amother




Tan


Post  Thu, Aug 09 2018, 12:12 pm
My 5-year-old b"H has so much going for her. Her teachers last year told us that she is the most advanced in the class at math and Hebrew/English reading, and she is also very social and always has playdates with everyone in the class. But I'm very worried that she doesn't have the vocabulary or ability to express when something is wrong.

This morning she couldn't find her camp knapsack, which had tickets in it for a raffle. I told her we would find it later and meanwhile she should take a different knapsack. Later, I saw she wasn't getting ready for camp, just sitting on the couch with her lips pressed together and her eyes and nose turning red. Tears were welling up in her eyes and splashing onto her cheeks.

I asked her what was wrong. I asked her why she was crying. I asked her if she was upset about her knapsack and raffle tickets. I named a bunch of feelings and asked her if she was feeling any of them. I said, "Please tell me what's wrong, Mommy can fix it." I asked her if it had to do with camp, with home, with her sister, with me. I asked if anyone was bothering her at camp, if she wants to stay home today. To every single thing she said "No!" or "Nothing!" in an angry voice and turned away, still crying silently like her heart was breaking.

In the end we were fifteen minutes late for camp and we had to go. I asked her if she wants to stay home, she said no. She wouldn't get off the couch and walk to the car. I had to carry her, and she was limp and hopeless in my arms, still sobbing. I said to her, "Do you want me to ask your counselor if she can give you new tickets?" She instantly perked up, said, "Yes," sang the camp song the whole car ride and happily ran off to her bunk. That was all it was about.

This was just an extreme example of something my husband and I have noticed before, especially now that we have a kid younger than her who is talking. Her siblings will kvetch and complain and give entire soliloquies about anything that's bothering them, and this kid will just go silent. She has plenty of opinions and will tell us when she wants or doesn't want something, but whenever we try to get at something like "Why don't you want this" or "What's wrong" she just clams up. Her teachers have mentioned this as well, that she'll answer questions but won't volunteer anything to them. Again, she's extremely popular with her peers, so this doesn't seem to be a social skills or shyness problem.

I don't want to pathologize a really great kid, but I really think that this is something that needs to be fixed for the sake of her emotional skills and future relationships, and because I have no confidence that she would be able to tell me if ch"v someone was hurting her. I will talk to her teachers about this in the fall, but I want to be proactive about what options would be appropriate. Is this something a social worker could teach her? A guidance counselor? Speech therapist?
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amother




Ruby


Post  Thu, Aug 09 2018, 1:06 pm
My child was in therapy for similar difficulties. She is now a much happier, confident and expressive child.

Did she need the therapy to be able to function? No. Is she having a happier life because she was helped? Yes!

My daughter was working with a social worker and a speech therapist but if the problem is only in emotional expression then she may not need the speech therapy.
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groovy1224









  


Post  Thu, Aug 09 2018, 2:23 pm
Just off the top of my head from reading your post, it seems that you may be inadvertently overloading/overwhelming her with your questions. Sounds like she knows that she is upset, but just can't describe exactly why or how. So when you offer a multitude of choices - (did something hurt you? Did you get scared from the vacuum? Are you upset that your cereal spilled? etc etc) it causes her to shut down because she's still trying to process how she's feeling.

I don't have time to link some right now, but there are some great books out there that can help increase her emotional vocabulary. (I think they may be called something like "When I Feel Sad" or "When I Feel Scared" etc.) This can equip her with the right words to express her feelings, and then you can brainstorm with her on possible solutions. You can supplement the readings with discussing afterwards things that make HER feel sad or angry or scared or embarrassed, or whatever the case may be.

Hope that helps somewhat!
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Rachel Shira









  


Post  Thu, Aug 09 2018, 3:45 pm
groovy1224 wrote:
Just off the top of my head from reading your post, it seems that you may be inadvertently overloading/overwhelming her with your questions. Sounds like she knows that she is upset, but just can't describe exactly why or how. So when you offer a multitude of choices - (did something hurt you? Did you get scared from the vacuum? Are you upset that your cereal spilled? etc etc) it causes her to shut down because she's still trying to process how she's feeling.

I don't have time to link some right now, but there are some great books out there that can help increase her emotional vocabulary. (I think they may be called something like "When I Feel Sad" or "When I Feel Scared" etc.) This can equip her with the right words to express her feelings, and then you can brainstorm with her on possible solutions. You can supplement the readings with discussing afterwards things that make HER feel sad or angry or scared or embarrassed, or whatever the case may be.

Hope that helps somewhat!


I agree with this, this was my thought too.
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amother




cornflower


Post  Thu, Aug 09 2018, 6:46 pm
I'm not an advocate of therapy when there are 2 aware parents involved. I think it would be more effective for you to get advice on how to speak to her. These things take time but putting in consistent effort you will see change.
Also it's not a good idea to compare...
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amother




Slateblue


Post  Thu, Aug 09 2018, 8:03 pm
I agree with other posters, don't overwhelm her with questions. She may need space, and that's okay. You can point out that you see she's feeling sad. Ask her if she wants a hug. Do reassure her that whenever she's ready to tell you, you'll be available to listen. Also, don't take for granted that she knows why she's feeling the way she does. Ask, do you know why you're feeling sad? If she says yes, tell her she can tell you whenever she's ready, if she says no, tell her she can think about it, or does she want you to help her think. Also, she might be more comfortable drawing it, or writing it, or checking it off a checklist. Give her the vocabulary. Once you figure it out, tell her "You were feeling so disappointed about those raffle tickets and it was really making you feel sad. Right? When we want something really badly and can't have it that makes us feel disappointed and sad. Nobody likes feeling disappointed and sad." Let her sit with her feelings, don't offer a solution right away.
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seeker









  


Post  Thu, Aug 09 2018, 11:20 pm
amother wrote:
I'm not an advocate of therapy when there are 2 aware parents involved. I think it would be more effective for you to get advice on how to speak to her. These things take time but putting in consistent effort you will see change.
Also it's not a good idea to compare...

This is what I was going to say. Don't run for therapy just yet, especially with all that's going for her. First learn techniques that you can apply to help her. 5 is young and could just need more teaching.

It will take time, which is a pain when you need to get somewhere. But you need to take that time to process and reflect her feelings. Then give her the language you would want her to use, model it, AND have her repeat it back to you. Once you hit the nail on the head with the new tickets, that's when you would say something like "Oh, you were so worried that you didn't have your raffle tickets! That was so upsetting. Next time you can tell me 'I'm worried that I don't have my tickets' and I'll help you think of what to do."
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amother




Pink


Post  Fri, Aug 10 2018, 9:09 am
Just an additional thought, try validating her feelings and then have her come up with a solution in her own. It sounds like you tried to "brush off" (obviously inadvertently) the fact that this hugely disappointing (to her) thing had happened, by telling her you would look for it later and meanwhile she should take a different bag. That may have gotten her stuck on your reaction to what had happened, vs processing what had actually happened.

For example, "oh no, chana, you must be so upset, I know those tickets are so important. I'm going to look very hard for the bag while you're at camp. What else could help you feel ok for now?"

It's ok if she doesn't think of something right away. It's ok if she sits on the couch and sulks. Give her a free minutes, then repeat the validation and ask if she thought of what she wants to do for now.
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