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Child Psychology Q & A

Paul Kelly gives advice on the emotional well being of your children

Written by . Published on June 7th 2011.

Child Psychology Q & A

Paul Kelly is an assistant educational psychologist working in the North West of England. He received a masters degree in educational psychology and is currently studying for a professional doctorate in child and educational psychology at the University of Manchester.

Paul works part-time for a Local Education Authority and part-time conducting private work. He is a member of the AEP (Association of Educational Psychologists) and the BPS (British Psychological Society).

He is experienced in individual therapeutic work with children and teenagers, conducting psychological assessments, and offering support and advice to parents and schools. (All answers provided are based on the information provided and do not in any way replace a full consultation.)

 Q. My four-year-old is very clingy. I have noticed in comparison to other girls of the same age, she’s really quiet and shy and doesn't like leaving my side - especially at play centres or at parties. She is confident when she's at home. What can I do to draw her out of her shell?

Jayne, Northernden

A. It would seem that your daughter is needing reassurance in these situations and to be reminded of your presence in particular. She will hopefully move to a point where she can use you as a 'secure base' from which to go out to explore and return to in times of need. By all means encourage her to explore more when you’re at parties etc but reassure her that you are still there for her. Start off with many small steps in developing her confidence in social situations. For example she could give the money when in a toy shop while you stand next to her. When you are at a play centre, you could try to start off playing with her while she settles in and then gradually withdraw to allow her to play with or alongside other children. Try not to push her too much until she is ready and instead look out for the small steps of success.

Q. My eight-year-old stepson keeps acting out against me. If I tell him off for being naughty he will go and damage something of mine or even worse go and mess with my toothbrush. We have also caught him hurting the dog recently and he couldn't tell us why. We can't seem to change this behaviour. Can you help?

Adam, Manchester

A. One psychological approach to behavior issues is to consider that behavior is a communication. If these behaviours your stepson is exhibiting were able to speak, what would they be saying? It may be that your stepson is trying to communicate a need or express an emotion (frustration or anger). If so, the behaviors may continue
until the child feels they have been heard.

As adults we have a role to play in providing boundaries for children and also in trying to understand their emotions and help them with these. It might be worth trying to start with dealing with the emotion rather than focusing on the unwanted behavior. For example, if your step son damages something it might be useful to say something like "I can see that you must be feeling very angry about something to have damaged that. Remember that in this house we have a rule that we look after our belongings and other people’s property so I don't want you to break things."

It may also be useful to set aside some time whilst out for a walk together, drawing a picture or playing Lego together where you can talk calmly about any concerns your stepson may have. By looking for the reasons behind the behavior and meeting him where he is at, it may prevent some of the unwanted behaviors.

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Kukoo MahmoodJune 12th 2011.

My daughter 14years old. She had cleaning problem. She washed her hand again and again. She said she feels dirty all the time . I am so worried .can you help me please?

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