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Alicia_MSW, Family Counselor
Category: Parenting
Satisfied Customers: 794
Experience:  Licensed social worker and psychotherapist
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My eight year old daughter is a bright, caring and very sensitive

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My eight year old daughter is a bright, caring and very sensitive girl. She is involved in dance and sport outside of school and enjoys them. The problem is her initial response to almost everything she has to do is a negative one. Most days she resists getting ready for school, going to outside activities, going for family walks, having a shower, getting dressed, helping to tidy up etc.. She tells her teacher a few times every week that she feels sick when she is not. She doesn't seem to have any 'get up and go to her' and it is a battle to motivate her to do anything. This is resulting in arguments and a negative atmosphere at home. It is also effecting friendships, she is very sensitive and is a people pleaser she seems to find it hard to form friendships with girls in her class.
I have a 7 yr old daughter who has a positive attitude and has none of these issues.
Submitted: 5 years ago.
Category: Parenting
Expert:  Alicia_MSW replied 5 years ago.

Thanks for asking your question. I'm happy to help you today.

You say that your daughter is very sensitive and bright, so my initial reaction to your message was that she is - possibly - a "highly sensitive person". As the name implies, people with high sensitivity are naturally more sensitive to external stimuli (socially, academically, physically) and are often more intuitive than their "non-sensitive" counterparts. From the description you provided, it sounds like she might be one of the 15-20% of children who fall into this category, although there's no real way to know for sure without an in-person evaluation. This is not to say that there is anything wrong with her - in fact, high sensitivity is viewed as a gift. Just for your information, you might be interested in reviewing this material regarding highly sensitive children by Dr. Elaine Aron, the psychologist who pioneered research on high sensitivity.

It's something to consider, but again, I'm providing this just for informational purposes. It's often the case that bright and gifted children display resistance, frustration and even depression because their trait is not well-understood.

That being said, whether she is, in fact, highly sensitive or not, the fact remains that you are struggling with the resistance and negativity, which should be addressed. Many children display reactions like the ones you described in response to having to do certain things that they don't want to do, so it's not entirely uncommon. But because it is affecting you and your family to the point where you feel there is a negative atmosphere at home, I would suggest that you speak to the school social worker or psychologist and her teacher (if possible) to determine whether there is anything specific going on at school that they might be aware of that is triggering this behavior.

I don't want to alarm you unnecessarily but I'd like to cover all possible bases here. It's possible that she is suffering from depression. You might want to review this article, which describes common symptoms and signs of depression in children, as well as information regarding treatment. Again, she may not display all of these symptoms and they may not be as serious as described on this website, but it's important for you to be informed in order to best help her.§ion=Facts+for+Families

If her behavior is significantly impacting her well-being and ability to function in school, then the next step I would suggest would be to have an evaluation by a child psychologist. Again, it's possible that it's nothing serious, but it's always better to be informed and investigate whether there is, in fact, something deeper going on.

It sounds to me like you've already done a very good job with trying to motivate her, being positive and making things fun for her, so I would encourage you to continue these activities and try to help her through this phase while you're investigating other avenues that might help her.

The Psychological Society of Ireland has a searchable online database where you can find a licensed psychologist in your area:

While I can't provide you with a diagnosis (and she might not even have one) my sense is that she may be struggling with a few underlying issues that might be best addressed by a child psychologist, if you are open to this suggestion. If she is highly sensitive, then a psychologist will also be able to help determine this and suggest strategies that you can employ to help her do her best and to provide an optimal learning and home environment.

I hope this helps. Please let me know if you have any additional concerns or questions.
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