Dear Dr. Susan:
My son is 9 years old, and I’d say, is a happy kid, getting good grades in school. My problem is, I need your advise on how to handle his being oversensitive emotionally. When something displeases him, it takes so long for him to snap out of such feelings. I keep telling him to stop feeling grumpy and be more forgiving. Help!
Thank you so much for writing in! Nine year olds are beginning to discover an amazing reality. One that their parents are not mind-readers, and that nine year olds are private. Therefore, a fantasy life evolves in their minds, and they become very impressed by their own feelings. They become quite theatrical and bossy and even stubbornly “devoted” to their “feelings”. They hang onto every emotion like it was the only feeling that anyone ever had that was so powerful! This is the beginning of pre-adolescence and a very important time. Parents need to ignore a lot of this, and pay good attention to their child when he or she does snap out of it. Try not to react to every emotional outburst. You can imagine in your mind that he is performing in a play and is “practicing” his part. When he is his normal happy self, take the opportunity to talk openly about his prolonged anger or irritability, and show him how it disrupts the household. Suggest when he acts that way, you would like to tell him to go take a walk or play solitaire or find an activity to do, such as reading a book. TV or video games are not a good solution because they constantly are full of overly emotional behavior. Be a role model for your son and do not display overtly sensitivity in front of him, but be honest.
Thanks again for writing in!
Susan H. Turben, Ph.D.