parenting advice from Care and Feeding.

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Dear care and feeding,

I have a daughter who is… different?

I am concerned about several things. She’s 13 but often throws tantrums at home over minor things, like a 6-year-old screaming, screaming loudly, moving her limbs violently. She also still plays with dolls, though she now has elaborate stories for each one, and she jumps for joy when it snows.

She has tone issues and often doesn’t realize how she’s coming off, like looking crazy and aggressive when she’s actually super happy. It makes her seem insincere or like she’s being rude when she didn’t mean to. It doesn’t help his social life; she has three friends who can see past her differences and they’re amazing, but she doesn’t really hang out with other kids or kids her own age. She also struggles with most sarcasm; for example, she asked an older child she knew if she could sit with them, and they sarcastically replied, “No, of course not. I’ll just seat you at the other table. My daughter said, “Wait, are you serious? I can go sit over there. I’m sorry.” It went right over his head.

He’s the clumsiest person I’ve ever met. She regularly bumps into railings, light switches, desks and doors. She moves a lot when stressed or anxious: tapping her hands and pens, shaking her legs, shaking her head, etc. She says she sometimes feels her head vibrate randomly. She frequently complains of stomach pain and random nausea. She also says she generally feels bad.

I also noticed that she was quite tired lately. I don’t know if this is all related or what to do about it. Get her to see a doctor? (She is afraid of her family doctor for no good reason.) Anything else? How can I help my otherwise sweet and intelligent 13 year old son?

—Canadian mother needs help

Dear CMNH,

Looks like there’s a lot of signs pointing to Something going on with your daughter, and while you’re not sure exactly what it might be, there seems to be more than enough evidence that she could benefit from the evaluation of a professional who might be able understand and recognize what some of these behaviors and traits might mean. Your pediatrician should be able to refer you to a child psychologist, who will know exactly why your child is missing social cues, can’t understand sarcasm, or doesn’t seem to be reaching developmental milestones at a pace that seems appropriate.

I urge you not to drag your feet in doing this, as some of these observations seem to indicate that your daughter may be suffering from some discomfort due to the differences between her and many of her peers, and that she may need interventions or accommodations to flourish socially and academically.


More tips from Slate

My daughter’s sixth grade teacher called me recently to tell me that my daughter is an excellent student, eager to learn, and a lot of fun to have in the classroom. Sounds good, right? But he also mentioned that he often asked her to associate with difficult students in class. When I asked my daughter about it, she told me that these difficult students are often boys who don’t pay attention and don’t really want to be in class. I let my daughter know that I thought she was a good classmate, but the more I think about it, the more I feel like it’s not my daughter’s responsibility to deal with those boys in the classroom, and that this is part of how girls learn to be responsible for boys and their behavior – and similarly how boys learn that they are not responsible for their behavior. Is it worth going back to the professor to discuss it with him? Or should I just drop it because it’s a sixth-grade mythology semester? How should I talk about it with my daughter?

Joel C. Hicks