Struggling to make friends or just enjoying her own company?
Written by Dr Helen Wright on 23/01/2012
Q. My daughter is 7 and one of the youngest in her class (29th July). Although at home she is very confident, playful and imaginative with her older brother it seems that at school she finds it hard to join in with the other girls. I have spoken to her teacher who said that when she has asked her at break time why she is playing on her own she says it’s because the others are playing a game she doesn’t want to play and won’t play her game. She doesn’t seem to have the confidence to put her ideas forward to the others and instead plays on her own.
It breaks my heart when I hear from my son that she was on her own again today. What can I do to give her a boost in her confidence around her classmates to allow her to be more assertive?
A. I think you need to explore this from a number of different angles, and you certainly need the school’s help. A number of schools now have schemes like ‘buddy benches’, where children can go and sit if they want someone to play with, at which point one or more of their peers, who has been trained, will come and talk to them and offer to play. It is worth suggesting this to your daughter’s school if they don’t already do it. You should also ask your daughter’s teacher which children she/he suggests would make good friends for your daughter, and then organise playdates with individuals so that your daughter can build up confidence in playing with them.
Do be open, however, to the possibility that your daughter may effectively be choosing not to play with the other children, either because she likes some solitude in the midst of a busy day, or because she is rigid in doing what she wants to do. If it is the latter, then do talk to her about how to ‘give and take’ more; if it is the former, then do let her have some time and space to do things her way! She may not be as unhappy as you feel she is.