My daughter is struggling to make friends at her new school...
Written by Alun Jones on 10/01/2011
Q. My 13 year old has just moved school because of poor school work. We moved her to a private school, all girls, which is small and friendly. However, my daughter says no-one wants to be friends with her, nobody likes her etc. She tells us she sits in the form room rather than go for lunch, hides during breaks! She has been there 6 months now, and I am really worried. How can I improve her confidence and talk to people. Some girls at the school have tried to engage her, but because, I think, she hasn’t responded more than yes and no, they have given up! I have rung the school and spoken to her teacher who said she felt all was ok, and that she was just being “quiet”. HELP?
A. The importance of friendships in girls’ lives cannot be underestimated, and we know only too well that most girls want and need a close, reliable friend between the ages of 9-14. Even though many parents can recall similar experiences in their own lives, they feel ill-equipped to deal with their daughters’ daily traumas! Your daughter may well just be “quiet” and girls’ schools allow girls to be just that and ‘be themselves’ if that is that is how they wish to lead their lives. However, if girls are hurting, we need to support them.
It is useful to take a step back, keep a sense of perspective and remain objective. Remember that the world in which your daughter is living is very different from that of your own teenage years. It is therefore important that we help and support our daughters to ‘help themselves’. There are many steps involved in securing your daughter’s future happiness but there are no quick fixes.
Your daughter must be engaged in this process and we mustn’t forget that this is a stage in her life when she is having to work very hard making up for lost time in her school work; she may well be feeling academically inadequate in comparison with her new peers and that there just isn’t any light at the end of the tunnel.
Do take time to listen and talk with her at the end of each day; encourage her to share with you her ‘highs and lows’, her concerns and fears just as she would with a close friend, in the safe and secure environment of her home.
At the same time, seek greater support from your daughter’s school; agree a point of contact; someone who your daughter trusts and is comfortable talking with. Find out what extra-curricular activities are scheduled during lunch and break times and encourage your daughter to sign up for them. Ask the school to ensure that she attends! Music, drama, sporting or debating activities, for example, promote confidence and provide excellent opportunities in which to develop new circles of friends. Ask other parents if there is a popular activity out of school that their daughters enjoy that your daughter could also join, remembering that it is important that your daughter is able to enjoy success in that particular activity.
Encourage, or even coerce, your daughter to invite a new friend home every week or arrange for her to go somewhere with a new friend. It is important that you provide a welcoming and safe environment for your daughter to entertain friends at home, even if it is just a personal space for them to ‘chill out’.
I can’t impress enough the importance of your daughter playing her part in the process of making new friendships. Over time, you will see that your daughter’s school will provide the nurture and confidence building experiences that enable girls to put themselves forward in both their working and social lives. Work closely with the school to ensure that your daughter is able to acquire the key social skills that will prove invaluable at university and in her adult life.
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