Wednesday, November 3, 2010

When Jealousy is a Good Thing

My son had a play date with a couple other boys from his school last week. 

Kai does not play much with other kids, or even show much interest in being with them for the most part, but it is important to work on his social skills so my wife periodically sets up these play dates for him.

In the past, we’ve put Kai into therapeutic social groups.  These small groups are facilitated by a therapist and help teach kids like him how to communicate and interact with each other.  These days, he has group time at school once a week, but we haven’t otherwise been able to find a social group that fits his schedule.  So, we do what we can on our own. 

On this occasion, the play date started out at a Chuck E. Cheese’s and they later went to a McDonald’s that had a Play Place.  Typically, when Kai goes to these places, he either plays by himself or just wants to watch others play.  There’s actually relatively little social interaction between him and the other kids that he is there with. 

This time, though, he actually seemed happy to be hanging around with his friends.  While not fully capable of interacting with them, he wanted to be close and kept chasing them around. 

At some point after they were at the McDonald’s, Kai got upset.  He started saying mean words and didn’t settle down so my wife decided that she better bring him home.  At home, we spoke with him and were able to piece together that he was upset because the other boys were more interested in playing with each other than with him.  He was jealous.

The other boys are good kids, and we are sure that they were not purposely excluding Kai.  But, they are both older than him, more mature, and better communicators.   It would make sense that they would enjoy each others company more than that of a boy who is not at their same level. And, physically, being smaller and less agile, Kai was probably having trouble keeping up as they were going through the Play Place.

Jealousy is not a good quality in people.  But in my son’s case, I sometimes wasn’t sure that he would ever care enough about being with other children to develop a feeling of jealousy.  That he wants to interact with the other kids and gets upset when he cannot is a good sign. 

I can’t give him the desire to interact with other kids.  But, I can deal with the jealousy.  I’ll take that trade. 

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