Lonely 14yr old DD, desperate Mum, advice please...(27 Posts)
My 14 yr old (only) DD is so lonely and finds it almost impossible to make friends. She does have mild dyspraxia and is very shy. I have tried everything I can to find activities - you name it I've done it - and make contacts - which worked ok at primary school, but not any more at secondary. There are no friends outside school and weekends and holidays are very lonely and empty. It has had an impact on me too - mums who were friends have 'dried up' as their DDs don't seem to want to be friends anymore. I have read a lot of posts by people in the same situation and I know some teens grow out of this phase. I feel quite desperate about it - and worry that this will affect her badly in the future too. She is missing out on so much and I feel powerless. I dread her birthday and she doesn't get any invites at all now, poor soul. Just at the time when everyone else seems to be having a great time. She will have a go at things and is quite sporty and I wondered if anyone has sent their teen off on an adventure- type break as a confidence booster? Does anyone have any words of wisdom - or ideas? Thanks!
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Daisysuetoo, many sympathies to your dd and you - that sounds horrible!
i agree the school can't make girls be friends, but it can do things to try to promote 'likely' friends - class seating plans, project groups, pairs in science, 'please could you two go and get x y or z'? Lunch alone is a 'new' ordeal since my day - we had fixed seating plans, but i doubt any school does that now, and it would be practically difficult as people need to have lunch at different times to go to clubs and so on. Could your dd at least take a book in so that she appears engrossed? - though that is double-edged, as then people won't approach her..
I admit i wonder whether in the long run the engineering works - thornrose may be right! - but it is worth a try! So yes i would contact the school, discreetly - may help, and unlikely to harm. But (in italics) you may have to push it - with the many issues schools have to worry about they may not make this a priority unless you emphasise your concern.
School can also run lunch time clubs that give the currently lonely somewhere to go - can your dd try these? May mean faking an interest in learning italian, russian, chess or whatever - but who knows, it could even be enjoyable!
And i totally second those who recommend out of school activities - drama is another good one, and for the shy can be a real confidence boost. There are non audition youth groups, which can be good if school drama productions are more selective!
Just wanted to pop in, and not trying to hijack the thread, but thanks to being involved with the anime/comics crowd for years I see a lot of awkward teens blossoming and forming strong friendships with other quirky people. There's all sorts of groups out there for people who need to interact with people outside their school groups. In our retro fashion group we have a girl who's 16, partially paralysed due to an accident and painfully self-concious, the older girls in the group took her under their wing and she's so much more confident now.
Loads of good ideas here. I was very similar as a teen too. Can I add a couple more suggestions, which you may already have tried:
Karate/a martial art - like the brass band, you are there with other people, but the focus is on the instructor, so you don't have to engage with others - also v. good for self confidence and if taught well, should be fun
Someone mentioned penfriends. Are they still a possibility - maybe some of the other mums here might want to facilitate somehow? Or there are websites to set up overseas penfriends . . . . if she learns a modern European language it can be a way of practising the language too. Her teachers may be able to help.
Finally, echoing the suggestion of birthday days out, and also days out with you anyway. When I went to Uni, I was very envious of my room mate whose mum was a really good friend to her - they had always had fun together and shared days out/shopping/fun things to do, in a way I had never imagined mums could!
Oh this is so sad. I WAS that 14 year old ..... But when my peers grew up a bit, I started to make friends again.
It was the maturity of the peer group that was a problem, once they got past the idea that difference is always bad, we were fine.
In the meantime, I was in a brass band where we were ALL awkward, and it provided some sort of social therapy for me... People were there, but the focus was on shutting up and doing what the conductor said.
Is there anything remotely like this in your area? Cadets? Guides? Volunteering for Mencap (a friend did this, it's hard to be socially awkward with a child who grabs boobs and then laughs uproariously)
I have started many a thread about my 13 yo dd who has dyspraxia and Aspergers. She struggles terribly with friendships and I often hear her ranting to herself that no one wants to chat on FB.
My sister had no friends at school but god did she blossom, she has masses of friends now.
My dd sits in Curriculum Support at lunch times as her friends dumped her. It breaks my heart. School can try to manufacture friendships but it never works.
I even asked on MN for a friend for dd
The non-reciprocating on FB seems pretty common on here even among adults, so I think that kind of low-level crap behaviour is unfortunately very widespread. Are there any other online groups she would get something out of that fit her interests? FB is so general and as you say public.
Personally I also like Twitter. I prefer it being less personal / about gathering 'friends' than FB.
Yes i was wondering about asking the school. My dd 13 has been dumped by her best friend and the whole friendship group. She also has some issues but is basically very quiet and unable to forge friendships as her social skills are poor.
What I wondered is what can the school do or what could I ask them to do. They can't make other girls be friends with them so the situation will still be the same, sitting on her own at lunch.
Girls are so mean at this age. I haven't been on mumsnet for ages but came on tonight to see if there was any advice. It's funny thinking what you can take from the post. For me it's not to make it such a big thing and I'm going to introduce her to twitter I haven't thought of that, I hate FB and BBM they just seem to make a bad situation worse.
An adventure/activity holiday sounds good - doing those activities does make people feel good about themselves, it will fill a part of the holidays, and you never know, your dd might make a friend or two!
I find the 'clammed' up phenomenon interesting, and not uncommon it seems - chatty confident dds becoming so quiet and shy at secondary school. I think it may be a way of staying 'safe' - in an environment which is quite frightening (see many many threads on here about how unpleasant dteens at school can be to each other!). It may be they are adopting a strategy of drawing as little attention to themselves as possible - which is understandable in a way, but sadly also makes it very difficult to make friends.
Have any of you asked the school for help and if so had any success? It seems to be variable, but i think a school can help if the will and resources are there. Big ifs!
I think it is good to focus on helping her gain self confidence, and try not to worry about the friendship issues. (I know it's incredibly hard not to obsess over this, as I have been through it when my son was that age.)
What about babysitting? My daughter gets so much confidence from being around younger children who adore and look up to her.
I am always at home as a back up in case of emergencies, because my daughter is very young to babysit. It has been great for her.
Hi - I have found this thread really supportive. My dd1 is 13yrs, mildly dyspraxic too (not 'enough' to get OT support though but school are good) and has been going through a rough time friendship wise as well - she got 'dumped' by best friend from primary and consequently from their group of girls as well. I agree that it is especially hard in these days of FB, Instagram etc where the whole world appears to be out having fun while your own dd is stuck in the house. She is now volunteering as a young leader at Brownies which she enjoys and is involved in a sporting group. I am apprehensive about the school summer holiday though. I have also had to stop grilling her each day about who she had lunch with etc. It is just so difficult and sad and threads like this have been a real help to know that my dd is not the only one going through this.
Yes I will try to relax about it all - I have been getting quite frantic/desperate because this has been going on so long - and hasn't really improved. It has really upset me when I see things like FB where DD posts hellos and happy b days to people and just gets ignored... and thanks Cory for your advice - I don't know anyone who is dyspraxic and who can talk from experience - it's easy to let things get out of proportion. I need a reality check and to remember that everything does change when we mature a bit! And reinvention is something we can all do. DD is keen to try an adventure type break (she suggested it) and has done similar before - also a great idea to do a special trip for birthday - and volunteering/job/experience. I will look into that asap. My DH is so much more laid back about it all, but also so busy that he doesn't have the time to worry. A 'virtual' friend would be a real help - (penpals were so much simpler in the good old days) I think FB doesn't help and as spidermama says it's so public. Thanks so much for all your wise and helpful comments - I had to pluck up courage to do this which seems silly now. I have friends who don't really know this and I have struggled to 'admit' it as it felt like a taboo.
Has your DD looked at the Dyspraxic Teens website? It is almost a mini Mumsnet for, you've guessed it, dyspraxic teens, mostly based in the UK. It isn't very busy but it is very supportive and teenagers can chat about various topics. It is moderated, so I believe it is a safe site. She might find some nice 'virtual' friends on that.
My DS is older and also has mild dyspraxia. I think the early teens can be hard for them - they don't read body language and social cues very well, so find it hard to join in. Our experience was similar to mindfulmum's: peers become more much accepting at about 16/17 and he now has a small number of good friends. So this is probably just be a horrible phase that she needs to get through, but not her life forever.
I am sorry to hear you are so worried about your DD OP. She sounds similar to my DD who is 11, I have had the problem of her having no friends for years. There are people at school to play with but no one special and at home there are no other children who want to play with her (there are virtually no children around anyway) so I understand your pain.
It's very hard but I agree with other posters that you have to try not to show your anxiety about it, just show that you care and you are there to help them with anything. Rather than trying too many things perhaps just focus on one or two interests, what are her interests and hobbies? Try and find a group that might involve them. Do you attend a church, they may have things she can get involved in. Does she like animals, she could perhaps volunteer for some charity work? Does she have a pet? sorry I am asking a lot of questions, it is just the things I have thought of or do for my DD that's all! Hope you find some help, good luck and hugs to your DD.
Yes my dd is volunteering at a charity shop, I think she likes to feel useful and it's something to do at the weekend.
Would she be able to do some volunteering? I know she isn't 16, but something like helping at a local Brownie group, or charity shop? I know that isn't meeting people her own age, but it would give her a reason to go out, would help with confidence and socialising with others, and she may also enjoy it.
That was me at 14. What I wish somebody had told me at the time is: "This is not indicative of anything about you or about the rest of your life, this is how things are just now. There will be many, many chances of finding people more like you or indeed of reinventing yourself. 14 is still so very, very young: you have a lifetime ahead and you will change in that time, as will the people around you."
For me it happened when I went to uni. Partly because I met different people with whom I had more in common- and who were also more open and tolerant anyway. Partly because I seized the chance to reinvent myself when I was in a new place where nobody knew me: I deliberately made an effort to speak to people and get involved. My contemporaries at uni knew me as a sociable person. My friends at school would not have recognised that description.
I also travelled abroad which made things easier: even easier to become another person when you are speaking another language!
Also, people are often easier to get on with when they are a few years older: young teenagers are clicquey, older teens and young adults are often a lot more open.
I think ChopinLiszt is spot on: you need to make sure your fears don't become a self-fulfilling prophecy. If she wants to go on an adventure holiday, by all means let her, but because you think she'd enjoy it, not because you are frantically worried that her life needs to be turned round this moment.
Good post mindful mum. I like the idea of residential sailing courses.
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Yes, I know my dd would like a version of this, like 'teensnet' which was anonymous.
My shy 14 year old has really taken to Twitter. She likes the anonymity of it as compared to FB and feels a sense of pride and self confidence (rare for her) in the fact she's doing something the others at school don't do.
I understand why you're anxious about it op, but your anxiety will feed hers. To break the cycle, try to 'shrink' the problem in your mind, so it is a smaller piece of your whole life. Coming on here is a good first step. So by doing something new yourself, meeting some new people, and talking to dd how you feel about that, will help her see that it's not easy for most people to take a first step, but it's worth it.
I have a 14 yr old dd who likewise spends most of her time alone in her room. In her case it seems to be a choice, but if someone invites her to something she is keen to go. She has friends at school, but never initiates contact and rarely sees them weekends and holidays. It is important to distinguish between being alone and being lonely.
I agree with the previous poster that D of E is a good thing, as it helps with independence, but forces team activity. This would help her make friends, as it would give others a chance to get to know her. Mine also goes on holiday alone - her choice, activity based, and she blossoms.
Let us know how you get on.
My dd finds it hard socially, she does have friends at school, but she feels she is an outsider in the group. She never sees them out of school and doesn't have anyone round. She also doesn't do facebook. Most of the time she spends on sport, music and study. Luckily we are a large family, so she has company at home, and she enjoys adult company.
I was similar at her age, and really only clicked socially in the last year at school, and at University.
I try not to worry, she is gradually gaining confidence and I really believe that she will be ok. One thing which is helpful is Duke of Edinburgh Bronze where she will be away for the weekend with her group, and her sport and music.
Yes she does mind - recently burst into tears and sobbed - yet other times is just as you describe - totally clammed up. And yes I have tried hypnotherapy in my 'quest' for something/anything. I won't name names but it was someone who has experience of dyspraxia and I felt it didn't really do anything and was possibly even negative. But I'm not against the idea of therapy to build confidence etc. I would definitely say go to a person who specialises in teens etc. The way that DDs dyspraxia manifests itself is verbally - and also organising herself/thoughts/writing. I do also think that it's ok to be on your own and to be self-sufficient is a good thing - like you - but it's out of balance. I think I've got myself into a bit of a state about it - talking to other people who understand will definitely help me to get a better perspective.
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