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What can schools do to help children without friends?

(26 Posts)
Lucy7400 Fri 20-Jan-17 10:26:25

Dd aged 11 in year 6 has no friends. She fell out with a friend in October who paired off with another girl. The class is very small and the girls are already in formed groups. She is not particulalry interested in playing with boys as she finds them too rough. I have tried inviting other girls round and giving her pep talks but its to no avail. She comes home almost daily saying she doesnt have anyone to play with sad. Some of the girls have actually told her to go away when she has tried. I have spoken to the school but no action plan has been put in place. Maybe I am expecting the impossible. What can be done? Anyone else been in this situation. Do we just need to put up with it until she moves on to secondary. I am worried she is losing confidence and it will hinder her start at secondary school.

2cats2many Fri 20-Jan-17 10:52:03

Aww. That's rotten.the school should do something to help, especially if she's feeling really sad in school. Does she have friendship groups outside of school? Guides, sports clubs, neighbours, etc? Sometimes just knowing that they are likeable and capable of making friends after school can help to put the school experience in perspective.

Iamcheeseman Fri 20-Jan-17 10:59:05

It must be horrible for you as a mum. I would suggest you approach the school again. As a teacher it's hard as I don't dictate to children that they have to play with certain children etc as I don't think that's good for either party. In situations like yours though there are a few things I've tried in the past. Setting up a circle of friends group is one option. In your dd's case I might be inclined to make a rota. After a discussion with the class I would ask for a couple of volunteers for each day of the week to play with her. Different children each day if possible so those children are committing to all of their free time. The hope with this is that after a few weeks she would actually have gelled with one or two on the rota who then want to be her friend and that she wants to be their friend.
Is recommend asking the school what strategies they can use to help and see what they say.

Lucy7400 Fri 20-Jan-17 11:01:38

Thank you. Yes, she swims competitively so has friends from the team. I am at a loss. I feel like there must be something she is doing to be excluded but I really dont know what. The school have got a few girls together for activity sessions but it stops as soon as they go outside. Should they do more? I just dont know what.

Lucy7400 Fri 20-Jan-17 11:10:19

Thank you for the suggestion lamcheeseman but I think she would be blush to be looked after on a rota. One of the mums came up to me this week to say her daughter had told her that my daughter is on her own in the playground. She wasnt sure if I knew. I was half hoping she was just exaggerating but this confirmed it was indeed happening sad

empirerecordsrocked Fri 20-Jan-17 11:14:45

Dts school has a friendship bench - if someone doesn't have someone to play with they sit on the bench and get picked up by someone else. It's a small school and seems to work well as all the year groups play together and the older ones do it too if their friends are off sick or out for the day.

KatherinaMinola Fri 20-Jan-17 11:19:30

Classroom strategies like paired work (changing the pairs regularly) and small group work.

Some schools have very effective playground supervisors, who organize skipping, ball games and other playground fun, which gets over the problem of children not having particular friends. (In other schools the playground supervisors do the bare minimum - but it is certainly possible to push for change.)

Blossomdeary Fri 20-Jan-17 11:19:43

Our school has a bench in the playground where someone who is on their own can go and sit and it is a rule that if you see a child there you MUST go and chat with them and let them join in the game. Just seen that someone else has mentioned this above! Great minds! It certainly works at our small rural primary - worth mentioning to the head maybe?

mouldycheesefan Fri 20-Jan-17 11:25:53

Have you tried inviting any of the girls to your house?
I personally don't think friendship benches are the way to go for 11 year olds. I doubt she would stigmatise herself by sitting on it.
Does she go to guides? Drama is a good way of building self confidence too.
Do you know why they don't play with her?

juliascurr Fri 20-Jan-17 11:32:24

Iam - circle of friends can (and did) backfire if there is deliberate exclusion bullyiing
my dd had similar experiences; it is excruciating to see ; we ended up home ed then new school - sending sympathy
these people were very helpful -

Leeds2 Fri 20-Jan-17 11:49:40

Are there any lunchtime clubs that she could join? Might help in making friends, and also something fun to do instead of being by herself.

Lucy7400 Fri 20-Jan-17 11:53:03

Thank you all.

empire the school have a bench but DD would be too embarassed to use it. She has taken to hiding away in the loos or helping supervise younger children.

Katerina tbh I think the lunchtime supervisors do the bare minmum but its a huge inner London school so probably a nightmare to keep an eye on them all.

mouldycheese she swims and does ballet so has friends there but shes not.into team things like guides. Yes we have had girls over and its all fine whilst here but no continuation in school. I dont know why this is happening. I have even asked other mums I know well to find out from their daughters as I would rather know.

juliascurr yes it is bullying and she is definitley been excluded. Some of the girls have FB (not Dd) and one of the mums caught a group chat on fb messenger about not inviting dd to a party sad. I have considered home schooling her for the next 6 months but maybe tricky as I have a toddler. I will take a look at the link . Thank you.

Lucy7400 Fri 20-Jan-17 11:54:20

leeds no there arent any lunchtime clubs sadly.

Witchend Fri 20-Jan-17 11:57:57

I think it is very hard for schools to do much at that age.

After a discussion with the class I would ask for a couple of volunteers for each day of the week to play with her. wouldn't that be rather humiliating for the child concerned in year 6? I can see this working in infants-where they can be proud to be doing as the teacher asks and being nice.
But by year 6 isn't it more likely they'll see her as the uncool one who can only have friends to play with if they're told to.

In the same way I can see a friendship bench working in infants, but not in juniors. As a shy child who was friendlyish with most others, but not best friends with any I never would have sat on that. I would have been put off by the thought that if I sat on the bench no one would have come, and made it doubly obvious no one was my friend.
However I would have probably been very pleased to go over to younger ones sat on the bench and played with them, so in that way it would have worked.

I think at this age the best thing is for them to have something they have to do together. Ds has a friend they tidy the bookshelves together at lunch/break. They've been put in charge and it really has cemented their friendship-they do things like making a powerpoint to show the class how to keep it tidy! grin
If the school isn't doing anything, could you find a friendly mum or two and ask if there is after school activity their child does where she doesn't already have friends going, that she could join. Perhaps sharing lifts etc. Dd1's best friends are outside school from an activity.

user1475317873 Fri 20-Jan-17 13:33:04

I suggest you send a letter to the Head Teacher with yrou concerns and asking whether the school can do something to help your daughter.

I have noticed that not much gets done when I have made a verbal request but when I have put things in writting the school action it straight away.

Lucy7400 Fri 20-Jan-17 16:09:36

Yes I think I will do that. Apparently they have a TA who helps the children with these issues. DD told her about an example where she was playing with one child and another came up and started being mean to her. The TA said if that happened again then DD should just play elsewhere. I will caveat this by saying this is only DDs version of events but if its true I am pretty angry that the school dont think telling the perpetrators off should be the priority.

purpleshortcake Fri 20-Jan-17 16:17:26

Could you approach the Mum who told you that her daughter had noticed she was alone and see if her daughter could take her under their wing for a bit?

Shurelyshomemistake Fri 20-Jan-17 21:04:01

It sounds a lot like bullying and I think the school should be tackling that rather than drawing up rotas, etc. Agree that at y6 she is too old for that.

Can you have a heart to heart with her, find out who is saying what to her?

goingmadinthecountry Fri 20-Jan-17 22:13:30

As a teacher I'd get them organising something for me - a presentation to younger children, organising playground games? You can't mess much with friendship groups too much at that age but you can certainly find ways to make sure they all get on well together.

As a mum I want to offer reassurance - this was my child in Y6 in a very small class with very few girls. There was one very manipulative girl. Dd1 was fallout. It really bothered her. She had lots of friends in secondary school, had a great time doing her degree, worked and travelled for a year and is now a PG student. Bigger gene pool, lots more friends.

Lucy7400 Fri 20-Jan-17 23:53:10

Wow! Thanks going mad you cant begin to imagine how helpful it is to hear that. I have a gut feeling she hasnt found her kindred spirit and wont do at this school. She is a bit alternative and oddly mature in many ways. We had a heart to heart and it turns out a couple of girls have initiated play this week. I have encouraged her to build on these opportinities. She seems to be looking for that special friend but I have told her to not focus on that as she only has 6 months left. Interestingly, appearance seems to be a factor. She has no interest in clothes and looks and feels this is a factor as some of the girls (particularly the unpleasant ones) are starting to wear make up etc! I am surprised it even registers at this age but there you go. I have said I am happy for her to change her hairstyle.etc but she doesn't want to. It was just an observation that shr had made.

bojorojo Sat 21-Jan-17 08:34:50

I think you are a bit sheltered if you thought clothes and appearance are not a factor at this age - they are for some girls. They have a very keen interest. If she is not interested in this then the girls that are will not really be her friends because their interests are different.

I don't think you can change that. However there must be sportier children who also like dance in a large school and it is good to hear other children have approached her. At this age it is unlikely she will find a best friend when the friendship groups are established. You have correctly identified that she should try to be friendly with the girls who are friendly towards her. I think it is also a shame she didn't have more than two friends in the first place - three's a crowd etc.

I can absolutely assure you that there are more opportunities for friends at secondary school. She will find like minded girls but she should try and be in a wider circle of friends. My DD wasn't favoured much in Y5 with some improvement in Y6 but she really hit her stride in secondary! As others have said, intervention in y6 by teachers is very difficult in that it is unlikely to be successful - children know their own minds. However you should mention it if it does not get resolved but you cannot force children to play. Hope there are now improvements.

OutwiththeOutCrowd Sat 21-Jan-17 08:52:20

If I happen to find myself in the vicinity of someone I know, but who is more of an acquaintance than a friend, I’ll engage in a few pleasantries but stop short of inviting them for a chat in a coffee shop, or whatever the grownup equivalent of a play date is. I certainly wouldn’t immediately tell them to go away like those classmates were doing to the Lucy's DD.

There is a happy medium in social transactions between friendship and ostracism. To echo what goingmad says above, teachers can’t insist on classmates being friends or that everyone invites everyone else home for tea - but they can insist on a basic level of civility in the classroom and playground.

And I would also like to see teachers recognising that bonding through exclusion is a real social phenomenon that ought to be addressed. As Sigmund Freud writes in Civilisation and its Discontents:

It is always possible to bind together a considerable number of people in love, so long as there are other people left over to receive the manifestations of their aggressiveness.

An exclusive group in the playground may feel cosy and special if you are part of it but can do lasting damage to those who are designated the role of outsider.

My DS’s primary school years were also blighted by this phenomenon of bonding through exclusion. It affected him quite deeply. I eventually removed him from the school towards the end of Y6 and home-eded for that very reason. (It was so late in the year that ‘home-eded’ actually meant taking long walks and eating ice-cream with a bit of educational chat thrown in!)

For him, moving on to secondary school was like leaving a black and white world and entering a technicolor one. He would come home from school and say in wonderment, ‘They are treating me like a normal person!’

So, Lucy, please tell your DD that she will meet her people – but she may have to wait until she escapes from the petty conformity of the primary school playground to do so.

Lucy7400 Sat 21-Jan-17 09:23:46

necessary as I am concerned about her self esteem. She was very tearful last night which makes me feel so sad. But I have reiterated to focus on company rather than intense friendships.

Lucy7400 Sat 21-Jan-17 09:25:22

Gah! Half of post is missing. The gist was thank you to you both. I read your post to DD outwiththeoutcrowd

notanothercheesesandwich Sat 21-Jan-17 12:07:52

I could have written a very similar OP, although my dd has always struggled to bond with her class. We are virtually countining the days to comp! She does lots of ex curric activities which she loves and has made a few friends and lots of acquaintances so her transition will be easier. She has been invited to join a lunchtime club twice a week which is mainly for SEN but she gets on very will with them and had embraced a role of playground buddy for them before. It might be worth asking the school if she could buddy someone, offer her assistance, so it comes across as more of a position of responsibility rather than a need for her. I often think when they aren't looking for friends it is more likely to develop. The school should def be told about the cyber bulling though and the effect its having.

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