Problems making friends

(7 Posts)
marthaspeaks Wed 15-Jan-14 23:50:28

My DD is 10 and in year 5 and has always been somewhat of a loner. She's not necessarily shy as she will be friendly and sociable but she just seems to find it so hard to make friends. She has some good friends out of school through guides and friends that we made when she was tiny, but at school she's always been lonely and spends her lunchtimes at the library/cmputer lab or just hanging out alone. Her school is strange in that each year, they mix the classes up across the year in a random way, so it's been hard for any friendships to endure. She managed to make become part of a group of girls this year, although before christmas they started to freeze her out and are being mean and taking delight in excluding her. For some reason, other children don't seem to want to be friendly to her and I honestly have tried to be unbiased and look at the situation from a neutral point of view. She is has a summer birthday, so isn't as mature as some of the other children, but she is sweet, kind and friendly. She says she tries to join in with groups but is told she can't play, at lunchtime kids move up and do the 'someone's sitting here" routine. She never gets invited to birthday parties or to other houses even though we often invite children over.

Her teacher noticed this happening to and advised her to cling on to one of the popular girls in the class, but this girl isn't really an ally and isn't helping. I've encouraged her to make friends with other loners, to join clubs, to not worry so much and have told her it happens with everyone. How else can I help?

LastingLight Thu 16-Jan-14 07:42:09

Maybe tell her to look out for other lone children on the playground, go up to them and ask if she can sit/play with them? I'm sure there will be others.

TheNightIsDark Thu 16-Jan-14 07:48:03

It may not be a popular view but can you buy her the coat or bag or similar that everyone else has? It might help her be more accepted by the other girls. I know it's not ideal but pre-teen and teen girls have a pack mentality!

Or alternatively ask one of the girls she was getting friendly with to the cinema, ice skating or something. Divide and conquer and all that!

TheNightIsDark Thu 16-Jan-14 07:48:48

I wouldn't follow the teachers advice of clinging to a popular girl in case they teased her for 'tagging along'.

wheneverIhear Thu 16-Jan-14 08:06:53

Sympathies to you and dd Martha, this sort of thing can be very upsetting. I think you're doing all the right things. I'm not sure about the school's advice to cling onto one of the popular girls, unless the girl in question is extremely kind. The thing is that everyone will want to be friends with popgirl so there is more competition for her; popgirl doesn't need new friends so won't be particularly receptive to dd; and I doubt that it will get dd absorbed 'by osmosis' into the group if she clings on. In fact I would go the other way, as you are doing - suss out who seems to like dd a bit, and maybe not be that 'friended up' - those dc (boys as well as girls!) are the most likely to be friend candidates!

I think I would also be asking school for more help - at this age they could do a bit of matchmaking by identifying other girls who might be potential friends, and getting them to do things together (arranging things in the classroom, maybe working together if that fits in with the teaching objectives, changing seating plans around). You may have to press the school a bit though - make clear how concerned you are. Are there any lunchtime clubs your dd might enjoy at school, to get through lunchtimes? It's not a bad thing to want time alone at lunchtimes, but from what you say that's not the case - your dd would like to pal up. The 'someone's sitting here' thing should be addressed by the school as well - not on!
Yes, being less 'grown up' can be an issue at this age - some girls are already into low key make up, fashion, general 'grown up ness' by Yr 5, and others most certainly are not. And that is a tricky dilemma. You don't want your dd to feel she has to be someone she isn't, and you want to help her to be confident about who she is, but at the same time there are subtle things you can do, like encouraging her to do 'in' things like the latest computer game which may make it a bit easier to integrate.

Finally, you say you often invite children over, so I'm assuming they come? Therefore, they must like her! I would definitely carry on with that for the moment even if they don't invite back - you can't deduce too much from that (parents very busy, other priorities etc), and it may in time lead to friendships at school.

3monkeys Thu 16-Jan-14 08:13:30

Sympathies, it is so upsetting. Ds1 is quite a loner, I hate that word and use introverted instead!! I found that actually for people coming to play, the popular kids worked better, because they had better social skills, whereas the other lonely ones were just like Ds and they didn't really know what to do with each other! He now at 14 has 2 or 3 good mates, and is perfectly happy in his own skin.

ThePartyArtist Thu 16-Jan-14 11:22:25

So sorry to hear this as I can still remember how upsetting this is. Unfortunately it is so common and Year 5 seems to be about the peak age for it. It is so hurtful and I think how it's resolved depends so much on the school and sympathetic teachers.

When I was in your daughter's situation I luckily had a very astute teacher who saw the situation (the most popular girl playing people off against each other and leading on the exclusions and who is allowed to be her best friend etc). Luckily this teacher dealt with it by having a quiet word and doing some matchmaking between me and 2 other girls (who were very nice but just a two-some rather than part of a big group, and weren't in with the most popular girls). The teacher handled it very sensitively and didn't let me know she'd set this up. I was happy when these 2 asked me to play and we became best friends and I moved on from the popular ones I'd been so keen to get in with. (Incidentally, about ten years later the popular girl apologised to me about it so she must've known what she was doing!)

Another little tactic I tried at my parents' suggestion was to go into the playground equipped with a small pocket-sized toy that could be shared by others. It was a tool to start a conversation or a game with someone else who I didn't know / who was also a bit left out. If going for this approach do be careful incase your daughter gets into trouble or other kids tell on her though.

I think out of school just being as involved as possible in activities is a good idea - sometimes at things like Brownies it's a chance for children to befriend children who aren't in their class. This might be particularly appealing if your daughter's young in the year and may like to play with children in the year below (with the added status of being a 'big girl').

I would also talk to the school as they take their pastoral duties much more seriously these days. Many have 'buddy benches' where people wanting a friend to play with can place themselves, and a Year 6 with specific responsibility for this has to come and involve them in something. Also the teacher could try setting up tasks for your daughter and some likely friends to get them planning something together over playtime, that can later be implemented in the classroom (eg. something fun and not overly academic such as thinking of ideas for costumes to make for the school play / things to work on in class assembly etc.)

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