My friend's daughter is 12 years old, but she believes she's only 8 and has behaved like a 8 year old since 1/2 year ago, by talking with [a] baby voice, refusing to go to the 7th grade because she thinks that's for older kids. Also, she thinks she's not pretty so that she asks her mom not to look at her when she's talking to her. She got her first period when she was ten, she's tall for her age for Chinese. Her grandmother, who lives with her, often tells her that it's too early for her to have her period. I wonder if that has anything to do with her acting. My question is how to help her to accept that she's 12 and why she refuses to grow up.
Thank you very much for your time.
From: Nini, Beijing China
It's not unusual for a child to move back and forth between the developmental stage she's coming from, the one she's moving toward, and the one she's chronologically in. When a child regresses, it's often because something has made her feel insecure or unsafe.When a child acts more grown up than her age, it can be because she's recognized a new ability or achieved a new level of cognition and she's feeling proud. Typically, these periods come and go, lasting hours, days, sometimes longer, and they are generally part of childhood.
What you're describing is an extreme, not only because she's regressing to a stage of development far removed from her current stage, but also because it's lasting for a long period of time. It sounds like something is bothering her very much; it could be that she's embarrassed by having her period at an age younger than her peers, but the behavior with her mom makes me wonder if she is ashamed of something even beyond that. Did something happen at school? With her friends? With a teacher, or a boy?
Empathy may be helpful. ("I can see how much you don't like being 12 years old.....") Talking about it could help, too. Has her mother asked her, "Why do you want to be 8 instead of 12?" In America, when a child doesn't want to go to school, it's considered a very serious problem (it's called, "school refusal"), and generally the school psychologist would get involved to help figure out the source of the problem. Is that possible? I also recommend a professional consultation with a child psychologist or psychiatrist. No matter what, you're right to want to reach out for help. The longer this goes on, the harder it may be to help her.
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