My daughter is always 'left out' - is this bullying?
Written by Alun Jones on 11/06/2010
Q. My 10 year old daughter frequently returns from school complaining that she hasn’t a friend or is being left out. What can I do to encourage her to make more friends…isn’t this bullying?
A. I can assure you that ‘friendship’ and the need for a ‘best friend’ will be one of the most important issues in your daughter’s life at this moment and will continue to be so for some years to come. It can be heart-breaking for parents and is perhaps the most commonly perceived act of bullying.
Girls can meet many obstacles when forming or maintaining friendships in their daily lives at Junior School. From ‘seat-saving’ at lunch times or games in the playground that are, quite mysteriously, “only meant for two” it is so easy for girls to feel excluded. Being left out from ‘private words’, ‘secret conversations’ or from that ‘popular’ girl’s party is hurtful for even the most robust ten year old.
Many Junior Schools adopt a variety of successful strategies such as ‘Friendship Stops’ in playgrounds or appoint ‘Friendship Monitors’ from amongst the older girls, but parents can also help a great deal by avoiding organising ‘exclusive’ parties for their daughters at such a vulnerable time. Wherever possible and practical, try to include the whole class at parties for very young children; feel free to check with your daughter’s teacher to ensure that friends are not left out unknowingly from celebrations, outings and treats. You can also be pro-active in ensuring a wide circle of friends are regularly invited home to play at different times.
Girls put considerable demands on each other and relish a friend who they can trust and who will stand by them; a friend who will not “take sides”. We therefore have to provide a safe and secure environment both at home and at school, in which girls can grow as confident, caring and trustworthy individuals who never feel the need to betray someone’s trust or friendship.
We have to do all we can to nurture self esteem, build girls’ confidence and resilience in order that they are able to accept and understand that friendships can and do move on. As girls get older and their characters develop, their demands on each other change and friendships are inevitably transient. Young girls particularly need our help and guidance in how to ‘let friends go’ sensitively and to try not to be too possessive of their friendships.
We can help by encouraging young girls to maintain a broad circle of friends and to be open and welcoming to new friendships. This is particularly important as 10 year old girls look to move on to their senior school. Whilst girls may appear excited about meeting new friends in their new environment they are inevitably apprehensive about leaving or losing their existing friends.
I often remind my junior girls of our favourite proverb:
‘Make new friends, but keep the old, one is silver, the other gold’.
They most certainly know that the only way to have a good, loyal friend is to be one!