Do you have an odd child in your family? I’m only asking because I used to have one. He was an odd child right up to about the third year of secondary school and then he got a big circle of friends who I think normalised him. I’m saying ‘normal’ but he’s not really, he didn’t lose his uniqueness, he just acquired social skills.
Some children take longer than others don’t they? I wonder about the social skills thing, because it often looks like abnormality or an underlying character defect, whereas in fact it’s just not quite getting how to do the social thing in the same way as everybody else. Saying the wrong thing, missing cues, not understanding boundaries, responding in inappropriate ways, that sort of thing. Embarrassing. I still do it sometimes.
Socialisation within the peer group is a great leveller, and children have a surge in the drive to learn the accepted social skills around the time they start school. There is then a fallow period of middle childhood, but if they didn’t get it the first time around they get another chance when the second surge kicks in with puberty. That usually sorts them.
I also wonder if it’s got something to do with the more introverted personality who simply can’t function at optimum levels when constantly in a group, and therefore just finds it impossible to put in the hours required.
Within a family group, it may be that the odd child is an introvert living in a family of extroverts, or conversely an extrovert living in a family of introverts. The child nobody understands, the odd child in the family who spoils all the fun.
In the first case, your introvert child will find all those big family gatherings and the constant traffic of people through your house – which you love so much – exhausting, over-stimulating and intensely stressful. Let him go and hide in his room and don’t castigate him for being ‘unsociable’. Give him as much chance to have alone time as possible, he’ll be a much nicer person for it. You know that intense irritation and restlessness you get after too much time alone? That’s what he gets after too much time with people.
In the second case, your extrovert child will be suffering agonies of repressed energy as she throws herself around making lots of demands on the rest of the family as you all sit quietly reading your books in your own little worlds. She will do anything to get some social interaction to soothe her jangled nerves, she will scream and shout and create huge dramas if that’s what it takes. Let her have friends round and visit her friends’ houses, let her socialise as much as possible. You might not see so much of her but when you do she’ll be better company. When she’s at home socialise with her as much as possible in a way that doesn’t exhaust you – watching t.v. together is good because there are all those other people on screen which makes it feel like there’s a crowd of you. Even interactive computer games can be good for providing the necessary stimulation.
The odd child can so often become the focus of the whole family. We’re told to give lots of attention to our children, but it’s amazing how everything can just fall into place if the two parents invest their energy in their own relationship first. If you take the full-beam headlights off a child sometimes they just stop acting like a frightened rabbit.
And before you start consulting the professional healthcare experts to get a diagnosis, I’d like to reassure you from my own experience (admittedly from a restricted study of just one) that the odd child can turn into the most wonderful adult.
Wonderful post. Thanks Stephanie. I have a slightly ‘odd’ child – at least his older brother thinks he is. Actually, he’s just wonderfully creative and often sees things from a different perspective. I tend to understand him, so maybe I’m a bit odd too! It’s so freeing to focus on the value of the individual and not whether all your kids follow the same developmental path. This post was very heartening. Will be back for more.
So glad it helped! It’s such a waste of precious time to worry about them too much – wish I’d known that back then!!