Age Nine Is Too Old for Thumb Sucking: Sylvia Rimm on Raising Kids
By Sylvia Rimm
Q. My 9-year-old granddaughter sucks her thumb. I know this is a habit, and I'm trying to break her of it. She sometimes does it in public. I know how cruel kids can be, and I don't want her being made fun of for it. When she sees me looking at her, she'll take it out. How do I break her of this?
A. Thumb sucking can become an annoying habit for a 9-year-old, and as long as she understands that you're trying to be helpful and that you won't embarrass her in front of others, your reminding her can be effective. You could assist her further by designing a small reward system to motivate her. She could save a point a day when she's refrained from putting her thumb in her mouth and have a prize when she's earned 10 points. Again, this should be private between the two of you.
Girl Needs Help Learning Social Skills
Q. My daughter is 12 and has Pervasive Development Disorder (PDD). She also has Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). She's highly intelligent, but her emotional level is equivalent to that of an 8-year-old. She's mainstreamed in school and has an aide for part of the school day.
How can I tell when it's best to let her grow up at her own rate and when it's best to force growing up? When should the social/emotional age trump the chronological age/intelligence level, and vice versa? For example, she still believes in the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus, which causes her difficulties with her middle school peers. Yet she doesn't seem mentally ready to give up the illusion. What would happen if we told her the truth before she was mentally ready to cope with it?
Can the stress of trying to be normal really trigger mental illness in a child with PDD? My maternal grandmother, my mother and I all have bipolar disorder, and I'm worried that the stress of PDD might trigger the same thing in my daughter.
A. A 12-year-old who has PDD is nevertheless ready to learn about Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny, and indeed, it may aggravate her emotional handicap to keep such simple truths from her. It would also be difficult for peers to relate to a peer who is so naive. While PDD children often miss common social cues, parents can help these children tune in to their world by sensitizing them to expected behaviors that they might ordinarily not be responsive to. Gradually heightening her sensitivities will not be pushing your daughter. A counselor can help you to teach her appropriate social skills, and learning basic social skills is likely to put her under less, rather than more stress. Although it's possible that your family's genetic history of bipolar disorder will affect your daughter as well, it's unlikely to be caused or exacerbated by your continuing to work toward helping her understand her social environment.
Dr. Sylvia B. Rimm is the director of the Family Achievement Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio, a clinical professor of psychiatry and pediatrics at the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, and the author of many books on parenting.
COPYRIGHT 2006 CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.
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