My daughter has become painfully shy...
Written by Jayne Triffitt on 27/01/2010
Q. My 14 year old daughter has a small group of friends at school which seems to work well most of the time. However my daughter is painfully shy and will not get involved in school clubs or any activities outside school. This is to such a degree that she refuses to go to town with her peers and has stopped inviting them to sleepovers at our house although she would happily do this up to Year 7. She says she finds it difficult to hold conversations and is often left out by the others. More recently the others have been talking about going to the cinema with a group of boys and have not asked my daughter to join in. I know the other girls are very socially active and some already have boyfriends. My daughter is a very young 14 and would be horrified to have to speak to boys at the moment. This term she has been to 2 sleepovers with one of the other girls at their house but refuses to invite her to ours.
I have tried to explain that it is quite normal to feel awkward in social situations and maybe she should just ask the girls if she can come to the cinema too. I have suggested she ask her group of friends or even some other girls to the cinema etc or have a sleepover but she says she cannot do that as she feels so inadequate.
I really worry about her as even we cannot prize her out of the house at weekends to go clothes shopping etc. I have written to her school and spoken to the pastoral head but nothing positive seems to have come of it. Any suggestions?
A. Your daughter’s situation at school is not unusual. At the moment, it would be best to focus on her happiness during the school day and make sure that she has somewhere to go where she feels comfortable at breaks and lunchtimes. Ask her how she spends her time and what happens with her small group of friends. Please ask the school to give ideas about this and to check that your daughter is okay at these times. Ask to speak to your daughter’s form tutor or Head of Year.
Sleepovers are very difficult social occasions even for less shy girls and not the best way to help friendships. (I write as the mother of a daughter). She is clearly uncomfortable with bringing people home at the moment as she would feel responsible for hosting the sleepover so I would not push this. If you know the mothers of one or two of her closest friends, you might be able to quietly ask for their help in arranging a less threatening social event. If she is not keen on clothes shopping, perhaps you could go on a shopping trip for yourself and then happen to visit some of the shops for her age group such as Zara or Top Shop.
She will mature over the next couple of years and hopefully things will become easier for her in mixed company. To increase her confidence, perhaps she could take part in some activities outside the school with other young people such as church groups, camps, sports activities or helping in the community. If she could be persuaded to go on a residential school trip in the holidays, this might help too.
If you feel that her self esteem is very low indeed and she might need some professional help, ask the school if they have an independent listener or trained counsellor who could help your daughter. Seek out the help of other relatives who are close to her to find someone that she would confide in. Above all, keep talking to her and make sure her time at home is happy and without pressure.