How to Support Your Unique, Quirky Child
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Quirky Kids: Understanding and Helping Your Child Who Doesn't Fit In by Perri Klass, M.D. and Eileen Costello, M.D (Ballantine Books, 2003)
Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrics by Melvin D. Levine, William B. Carey, Allen C. Crocker (Elsevier Health Sciences, 1999)
The Saga of Baby Divine by Bette Midler, illustrated by Todd Schorr (Crown Publishers, 1984)
By GreatSchools Staff
Is My Child Happy?
Quite often unusual behavior is not indicative of a disorder or a debilitating imbalance. Once you've established that with the help of a medical professional, what should you do, if anything? Is it OK for your daughter to spend her entire time in an active playground sitting alone having an invisible tea party, or for your son to wear his pajama bottoms on his head around the house? That depends on a few things. First, is your child happy? Does he like who he is? If he is, and is suffering no real negative effects, be sure to consider:
- Siblings: Does your child's unusual behavior have any negative effect on your other children? While the nonquirky siblings may provide comfort good socialization skills, make sure they have some privacy and a bit of protection for their personal space and belongings. Also, make sure they know they can come to you for help and advice.
- You and your spouse or partner: Are you stressed or embarrassed as a result of your child's oddities? Mom may think her son's fondness for Barbie dolls is a passing phase, but Dad may take grave offense. It's easier said than done, but try to find common ground where the two of you can lovingly understand and support not only your child, but each other.
- Your child's school: Is your child performing and behaving well in school and establishing friendships? Talk to teachers and other parents for ideas and input. As she starts to make friends, make small efforts, like noticing what's cool in dress, backpacks, etc., and providing a few of those for your child. Little things like that may help squelch the "She's weird!" stigma.
Obviously, a child who behaves differently might have a hard time fitting in or making positive connections with people. His behavior may be a reaction to negative experiences, or due to stress at home or at school, a lack of role models or simply underdeveloped coping strategies.
Even if it's just your child's natural predisposition, there are a few things you can do to help make his life a little easier.
- Match your child's unique style with a role model who can relate to and support your child's ideals and needs.
- Create an open door of communication for your child to express her feelings about who she is, why she might feel she's unusual and what reactions she experiences.
- Intervene when necessary, especially at school. Children with quirky behavior can be the targets of bullying, taunting and rejection, so be on the alert.
- Help him discover his unique skills and talents, and provide the tools with which he can explore and develop his other assets.
- Teach her traits that may not be in her behavioral repertoire, but that do not squelch her inner exuberance. That may be as simple as showing her that there is a time and a place for everything. For instance, dancing and singing a song made up on the spot is wonderful, but it is not wonderful during science class.
- Accept and celebrate your child's uniqueness. It may be hard to accept that your child does not have the innate abilities or desires to be the person you expected him to be, but there are a lot of reasons to celebrate the wonderful person he is.