New friends and best friends...
Written by Hina Thaker on 12/03/2013
Q. It seems that my 10 year old daughter is struggling to make friends at school. She is a very social, outgoing girl, but never has a close friend/friends that she talks about. When I asked her about the girls in her class, she replied, rather tearfully, that although she asks the girls if she can play with them, they invariably make excuses why they can’t play with her. She is also a tall girl, a full head taller than all the girls in her class, and I have noticed that she always seems drawn to kids who are quieter, or smaller, or younger, or shy. She has such a good heart, and loves helping others feel good. My daughter however, is louder, fun, full of energy, and quite a ‘tomboy’. She does have ADHD, and is on medication, but I do not think that this could interfere with her forming friendships. I can see this situation is hurting her. She is starting to question why she doesn’t have a Best Friend, when the other girls in her class all seem to have BF’s. How can I help her?
A. Making and keeping friendships requires many skills such as sharing, listening, talking, showing empathy and also having common interests. It is right to worry if you daughter is constantly upset by a lack of friends. I believe to support your daughter over come this issue you will need to have three simultaneous approaches.
Firstly, you should arrange a meeting with your daughter’s form teacher. Share your concerns and the anxiety that your daughter is feeling. What you need to have is an open and honest discussion on your daughter’s behaviour in the classroom, school in general and how it compares to her peers. Does your daughter’s perception of the playground match the teacher’s observations? How is she coping with the academic aspects of school? Is she organised, remembers her homework and kits needed for the day? The answers to some of these questions should start to give you an idea if there are other underlying issues. If there are, don’t worry or become anxious. You can now start to put strategies in place with the support of the school.
Teachers are wonderful at supporting children negotiate their friendships without making any particular child the focus. I am sure that through pastoral sessions the class could be encouraged to be patient and generous with each other’s differences.
Secondly, you describe your daughter as tall, full of energy and fun. Encourage your daughter to take part in some team sports. Team sports are wonderful for developing collaborative skills and will give your daughter a sense of belonging. Encourage her to develop friendships within these groups as the positive experience will boost her confidence in the playground. Again, speak to the school to see where her talents could be developed further. If your daughter is reluctant to join some school teams then see if she could enrol in a local swimming or dance club. You will be expanding her social circle and giving her more chances to meet other children and build friendships. You may also want to set aside some time when you could do an activity together. Encourage her to compete with you. It is vital that children learn to play games where they need to follow someone else’s rules, negotiate as well as, learn to lose well.
Ask the teacher to recommend some girls who may be friendly and happy to play with your daughter. Discuss the idea of inviting a ‘friend’ to go to the cinema with her or to come home to bake cakes or another activity with your daughter. Ensure that you are around to supervise and intervene if necessary. These play dates will give your daughter some ‘bonding’ time and conversation prompters in the playground.
Thirdly, keep a positive attitude. It is important to remember that making a friend requires many skills; some children seem to learn these by osmosis whilst for others these skills don’t always come naturally. This can be the case for children with ADHD. However, by helping your daughter channel her energy into sporting activities, calmly explaining social conventions and having the opportunity to put these skills into practice, I am sure that you will find that your daughter will make that all important BF.
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