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DD (5) really struggling to make friends - would love some advice :(

(19 Posts)
MangoHedgehog Wed 20-Jun-12 20:48:43

DD is an only child and from day 1 has always been incredibly clingy, shy and scared of other people. She is coming to the end of reception now and still has not managed to make any proper friends, even though she has been with the same group of children since nursery. At birthday parties I can see what the problem is - she is too scared of the other kids to go up to them and join in. She likes quiet games and is quite physically small as well, compared to the rest of them, and even though she really wants someone to play with she just hasn't got the nerve to make it happen, even if DH and I are there next to her, coaching her on what to say etc sad Her main tactic is just to play by herself and mentally block the other kids out, so that means she misses out on opportunities to join in.

She has always been like this with other kids - even at mother and toddlers she wouldn't leave my lap, and whenever we've been out with friends of mine who have kids around the same age she struggles to connect with them.

Unfortunately DH and I aren't part of the school gates crowd - her school is in the next town along and she gets the bus every day. AFAIK there is only one other girl in her class who lives in our town - I get on well with her mum, and she has come over for playdates but she and my DD don't get on at all! they are just too different, DD likes quiet games whereas the other girl prefers more energetic stuff, so they end up just getting on each other's nerves.

I have been considering talking to her teacher about it and seeing if there is anything that can be done to help her build confidence with other kids in her class, maybe some kind of behavioural expert we could call on? Part of me feels this is an extreme move but I can see that it is starting to make DD unhappy now, and she would love a little friend to play with.

I've also been trying to persuade her to do some after school activities so maybe she could meet more kids from our town (and I could meet parents and get playdates set up) - so far she is dead set against anything but I have persuaded her to start Rainbows, which has a waiting list but at least she is on the list now.

I just don't know what to do, it breaks my heart to see her wanting to have friends and unable to make it happen. I have asked her whether there are any other girls in her class she wants to invite over and she says she doesn't think any of them would want to play her games.

Sorry this is so long. Any advice would be much appreciated, as I am really starting to think we need professional help sad

theliverpoolone Wed 20-Jun-12 21:24:12

Gosh, did I write this post unknowingly?!! My dd is also an only, coming to the end of Reception, and I have spent the year worrying so much about her not making friends. At toddler groups she would never leave my side, and she used to run away in the park if another child approached the slide/climbing frame/whatever she was on (in fact, she still does sometimes sad). She was terribly scared in nursery, as it was very big and noisy, and I regret sending her so much. Like your dd, she is scared of going up to other children and joining in, she wants them to ask her, and so ends up getting left out. She actually said to me the other day that she wished there was a reading book about making friends so that she could learn, as she's 'not very good at making friends' - it broke my heart. She's very gentle and caring (she'd be a brilliant older sister, which sadly is not going to be possible), and likes playing things like board games (and hates it if another child doesn't follow the rules, which doesn't help her socially, as most don't seem to!) and doing art and craft.

I invite other children over for playdates a lot - far more than she gets invited back to - and I do think it's worth it for her to learn how to interact more with others, although it doesn't seem to translate into those children then playing with her at school any more frequently. I have talked quite a lot with her teacher about it, which has been helpful to a point - she says they do try to help her, although it isn't always in ways I think would be best for her. I also have her on a waiting list for Rainbows. Other activities that she does, eg dancing and swimming, haven't really generated friendships though, as they just do the activity with no real social interaction time (or maybe everyone else is making friends there, and just dd isn't?).

Sorry, I haven't really given any advice, I just wanted to say you're not alone, and I wish my dd knew your dd. I think before you start considering professional help, try talking to her teacher, as they may actually tell you that she is mixing more than you think - or may listen to you and come up with ways of involving her with others. Also, you said you'd asked if there were any 'girls' she wanted to invite home - is she at an all-girls school? If not, it may be that she'd get on better with boys. I tried to get my dd more involved with some of the girls in her class and it didn't work, but she's recently started playing with one of the quieter boys.

Good luck - and do pm me if you want to talk further.

MangoHedgehog Wed 20-Jun-12 21:55:11

theliverpoolone, that has brought tears to my eyes! your DD sounds lovely, and just like mine. My DD likes arty stuff too and is also a bit of a stickler for the rules so I'm sure they would play brilliantly together - sadly am nowhere near Liverpool though!

Thanks so much for replying, it is reassuring to know we are not alone and others are struggling with the same problem smile

There are boys in her class too but she has pretty much dismissed them all as 'too rough and noisy' - might be worth pressing her on it though.

Recently she has been talking about two older girls who have taken her under their wing in the playground - i am eternally grateful to them - but they are 10/11 years old and am not sure if they will want a 5 year old hanging around them all the time, although DD says they are always kind to her. They are fab girls!

I will have a good talk to her teacher about it. And maybe try some other classes too if I can persuade her, although from what you say it sounds like we might only have limited success with that...

DH thinks all she needs is time - she will get braver as she gets older and will learn how to make connections - and we should just keep being quietly supportive but not make a big thing out of it. I really hope he is right.

Thanks again xx

Aranea Wed 20-Jun-12 22:08:44

It's very hard to watch your child struggling, isn't it? I think the best thing you can do for her is to arrange as many playdates as you can, with lots of different children. There's not much point in pushing a friendship with a child she doesn't really get along with, so why not invite some others even if they do live further afield? I think it's hard for some children to make friends in the maelstrom of the playground, and a bit of one-to-one time can really help.

Theliverpoolone - there are books for children on how to manage friendships. My dd liked this book but I think there are others too. It may help?

MangoHedgehog Wed 20-Jun-12 22:15:34

Aranea that books looks fab - have just ordered a copy

Aranea Wed 20-Jun-12 22:24:31

Just thinking some more, and wondering whether perhaps organising something a bit more structured with another child and their parent might be easier? Like a museum trip or some other outing? The summer holiday might be a good time to build some friendships ready for Y1.

Glenshee Thu 21-Jun-12 00:03:33

My DS was like this, he is now 7 and doesn't let shyness get in the way anymore. He still likes to spend time on his own - if given a choice - but he can speak up for himself, and can talk to people he doesn't know if he needs or wants to. Situations where he desperately wants to say something and words just wouldn't come out are a thing of the past. Phew.

The Unwritten Rules of Friendship
The Shyness Breakthrough

A good book for your DD:
How to Be a Friend
(I think her request for a book is very mature and should be responded to! She's got plenty of years ahead to learn behaviors that don't come to her naturally.)

The biggest difference for my DS was made by Performing Arts classes in a Drama school. He struggled a lot with it initially. The teacher didn't think he'd settle, but I asked her to give him a chance anyway, and in 2 months or so he settled, - 2 years on he's doing brilliantly and enjoying it! I have rewarded him massively in the first 2 months for just coping with it. (And he was merely coping).

Inviting friends over is another helpful strategy. Ask teachers for suggestions if your DD wouldn't volunteer information, or just start inviting people more or less randomly. Most kids would see a trip on the bus as a small adventure, and many (not all, but many) parents would be totally fine to pick up kids from further away if they knew that their kids would have a great time!

Glenshee Thu 21-Jun-12 00:05:07

MangoHedgehog - are you on the shy / quiet side yourself, or were you as a child?

Glenshee Thu 21-Jun-12 00:24:17

Advice from Aranea is spot on. And the same book recommendation, ha! smile My DS loves this book.

MangoHedgehog - I think your DH is right, but it will help if you quietly accept that she may require extra support from you. For socially adept children playdates are nice-to-haves really. But for shy, less confident children like your DD playdates are really important.

Same goes for activities. Shy children need parents to understand how difficult it is for them to settle, and support them fully through this time. I'm afraid that if you simply wait for your shy child to want to do activities, then you might be waiting... erm... for a long time... and miss out on valuable opportunities.

Nandocushion Thu 21-Jun-12 03:05:43

Well, my DD was in a similar situation, and we did have an 'expert' come in to help. While I think it's true that many children grow out of this phase, there will always be a few who don't. They end up growing more and more isolated alongside rapidly forming groups of friends, and it is hard to break the pattern of behaviour that led to this isolation.

Our child development counsellor was able to identify those of DD's behaviours that were actively off-putting to others (using negativity or anger when she was afraid of a social situation, etc) rather than just general shyness, and we were then able to direct our efforts towards changing those behaviours. This was not an intensive programme of intervention, but merely several days' observation of her in her school environment.

In our area, child development counsellors are provided by the city council and are free (on referral). This is not the case in most places, so I'd second the advice about getting her teacher on board to begin with. Rainbows is also a great idea, and any activity you can think of that will build her confidence in a general sense will also help.

MangoHedgehog Thu 21-Jun-12 09:47:10

Thanks for good advice all smile I have rung her school today and set up a meeting with her teacher. And between now and the end of term DH and I will really go for it setting up playdates with any kids we can.

Glenshee, I wouldn't say DH or I are shy at all, but I would say that we probably don't have the right kind of social life to help her - the majority of my friends are through work and most of them are childless. I do have a few mates with kids of DD's but they all live 40+ miles away, so our get togethers are not at all regular. Cousins etc are similarly far away. So I think we are guilty of not giving her enough practice with other kids on a one to one level. Obviously we take her to the park etc all the time, but i think it's harder to make friends at the park than when you're actually thrown together in the same social group.

I really like the idea of drama lessons, I think that might really suit her - have made some enquiries locally to see what's available.

Have had a good talk with DH about all this today and he now feels as dreadful as i do, but agrees we need to do something about it. So I think following the advice here the plan of action is 1) lots of playdates, 2) reading that book together, 3) more classes / activities and 4) talk to her teacher and see whether she has advice or whether the LEA can provide a behavioural expert to help us.

MangoHedgehog Thu 21-Jun-12 09:48:44

** kids of DD's age

AdventuresWithVoles Thu 21-Jun-12 09:58:30

imho, she is a too young to worry so much.
I think the books are overkill, tbh, but maybe she's a bright girl who will get them.

She actually gets invited to birthday parties? Because believe me, plenty kids don't.

At those birthday parties get her to tell you which of the other children she likes; chat to the mums and if they seem like decent people invite get the mum's contact details & invite the children around. Also, look for yourself for other shy quiet girls, ask your DD if she would mind that child coming to play, too.

DC have never made true friends from clubs, but I guess it's worth a try.

pugsandseals Thu 21-Jun-12 10:03:58

Nothing can do more for the confidence than individual music lessons. Especially for those that like rules!

Mumsyblouse Thu 21-Jun-12 12:48:52

My dd2 who is a happy outgoing child at home struggled to make friends in Reception. She still seemed happy playing on her own, although she used to run around playing chase with the boys, and didn't find any girls she connected with, plus the girls all seemed in small groups.

By the end of Reception, she didn't seem to have any real friends.

A new girl started whose mum looked nice (but nervous) and I'm ashamed to say I practically lept on her and asked her daughter round for tea. She was delighted, having worried her daughter wouldn't have fitted in. She came, and it just seemed to give my daughter a bit of confidence to ask people to play, and she now has more little girl friends in her class and enjoys playtimes (but still doesn't have a best friend which I think is quite normal).

So, if there's one girl (or boy) your daughter likes, write a note to the mum and ask her over. There's plenty of children who like board games and things like that, and as they get older, and playing imaginative games/chase dies down, there will be others that are also looking for a thoughtful friend.

I think my anxiety over the friendship situation wasn't helping, so I would not go on about it, not many children have best friends in Reception and it is often a difficult phase in moving towards a different kind of friendships, so I wouldn't pester her about it. Just say: have a think if there's anyone you'd like to have over for tea and if she starts giving a list of children who wouldn't like it, repeat and then leave it with her. She might start to get a bit of a better antenna for the type of children who will fit with her as she gets slightly older.

MangoHedgehog Thu 21-Jun-12 16:38:02

Quick update: spoke to DD's teacher today, she thinks DD is fine actually...! Yes, shy, but she does interact with other children, and she seems happy.

The teacher also said that at this age they tend to flit around a lot and are best friends with one kid one day, another one the next - but she thought playdates would be a positive next step over the summer hols. She suggested a couple of quieter girls and boys who might be good for playdates and is going to introduce me to their parents at the school gates tomorrow smile

It was really reassuring actually to talk to the teacher, it has helped me get a bit of perspective on the situation. As long as DD is happy, I guess that's the main thing. Will really go for it with lots of playdates over this summer holiday and hopefully we can start Year 1 on the right foot.

Mumsyblouse, I really take the point about my anxiety rubbing off onto her too. We don't want to turn this into a bigger deal than it really is. and so will do my best to be chilled out about it!

theliverpoolone Fri 22-Jun-12 21:05:17

OP, so pleased that the teacher has been able to reassure you. Do keep an eye on things though, as my experience has been that the teacher will say dd is happily interacting, but it doesn't stop her feeling that the others have proper 'friends' to play with (particularly in the playground), while she doesn't.

I do agree that playdates are a good idea - even if a child doesn't become best buddies with your dd, it gives her an opportunity to practice social skills and become more comfortable with a range of classmates. I've also started to realise that if there's no invitation back it isn't because the child doesn't want dd to play at their house, but is more because other parents are busier with work/other children, and aren't feeling such a strong need to have playdates to help their dc's to socialise!

Good luck smile

Dolly31 Mon 15-Dec-14 14:51:44

Dolly31. Just wondering what happened to your daughter - she sounds just like mine especially the rules bit. You obviously wrote this a few years ago and I wondered if things changed. Catrin

Dolly31 Mon 15-Dec-14 14:59:40

Sorry. That was meant for theliverpoolone

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