Dear Dr. Norquist:
We moved to a new school system one year ago, and started our son in the 3rd grade in the local school. Over time, I’ve noticed that he is becoming more and more excluded by most of his classmates. He calls to invite them over and is usually turned down. Now he has started to hold himself apart from the others and not join in with group activities. One on one he seems to do fine. But lately he has started talking about how no one likes him, even saying “everybody hates me.” He often feels rejected by his classmates. This breaks my heart. He is quiet, kind, and quite sensitive. I’ve spoken with his teacher about this, so she is trying to support and encourage him. I stay up at night feeling hurt that he is having to deal with this rejection. What can I do?
Dr. Norquist responds:
Sometimes we feel our children’s’ pain even more than they do. We attach worries from our own experiences to our perception of their pain and can easily make the burden of their pain much heavier for us than it is for our children. We cannot always protect our children from pain. Pain is an inevitable part of life. If you can embrace this pain, it changes into a deeper experience of life itself.
As a mother, your role here is to guide your son in his perceptions of and understanding of this situation. The easiest internal response on your part would be to feel angry at and critical of the classmates who you feel are hurting your son. But what are the consequences of this response? What state does it leave you in, and what does it teach your son? Help your son to understand why some children may act rejecting towards others. Help him to see that we all have similar fears and insecurities. All are worthy of being treated with kindness, despite their behavior. We are all worthy of love. Do your best to help your son to experience his worth and his loveableness through how you listen to him, how you respond to his needs, and what your words or actions convey to him. When one feels “I am as good as another,” the world responds accordingly.
Remember, our children have their own paths, their own lessons to learn. We can do our best to assist and guide them, but we do not have control over what their lessons in life will be. The highest response we can learn and we can guide our children to learn, is to respond with love, towards themselves as well as towards others.
Check out Dr. Norquist’s new blog GrowingThroughParenting.com
(Dr. Sallie Norquist is a licensed psychologist (NJ #2371) in private practice and is director of Chaitanya Counseling Services, a center for upliftment and enlivenment, in Hoboken.) Dr. Norquist and the staff of Chaitanya invite you to write them at Chaitanya Counseling Services, 51 Newark St., Suite 202, Hoboken, NJ 07030 or www.chaitanyacounseling.com or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Questions can address various topics, including relationships, life’s stresses, difficulties, mysteries and dilemmas, as well as questions related to managing stress or alternative ways of understanding health-related concerns. Ó 2019 Chaitanya Counseling Services