How can my daughter re­cover from ex­clu­sion?

Irish Independent - Health & Living - - PARENTING -

MY daughter is in sec­ond year in sec­ondary school. She’s a bright, kind, good-look­ing but shy and sen­si­tive girl who just can­not make friends. She’s funny and con­fi­dent when she’s with fam­ily but we can see her re­treat,

EX­CLU­SION is such a dif­fi­cult ex­pe­ri­ence for any child to nav­i­gate. At the out­set, most chil­dren are sim­ply be­wil­dered by be­ing left out, un­able to un­der­stand why this is hap­pen­ing. Also, be­cause ex­clu­sion can hap­pen sud­denly, it takes time be­fore a child even re­alises that they may now be per­ma­nently out­side the group.

As the sur­prise at be­ing left out fades away, it is usu­ally re­placed by an as­sump­tion that the child her­self, or him­self, must have done some­thing to cause their friends to push them aside. The child as­sumes that there must be some­thing wrong with them to make their friends stop lik­ing them.

This is the rea­son that ex­clu­sion is so dev­as­tat­ing for a child. They can quickly de­velop a strong be­lief that they are at fault and this strips away their self-es­teem, often also de­plet­ing their self-con­fi­dence. Be­ing ex­cluded gives a strong mes­sage to a child that they must be un­like­able or unlov­able. Feel­ing lov­able is es­sen­tial to strong self­es­teem.

Per­haps for your daughter this has be­come a very neg­a­tive cy­cle, as soon as she nears her school or her peers. She had buck­ets of con­fi­dence when she was younger but be­ing ex­cluded by her friends both in school and at af­ter-school ac­tiv­i­ties hit her hard and left her very down. She now ab­so­lutely re­fuses to join any clubs or groups and is very iso­lated. Any ad­vice would be grate­fully ap­pre­ci­ated. where her low self-es­teem may then get in the way of de­vel­op­ing new friend­ships, fur­ther strength­en­ing her be­lief that she can’t make friends and that no­body could like her, and fur­ther un­der­min­ing her self-es­teem.

The other big dif­fi­culty with be­ing de­lib­er­ately left out by your friends is that it is al­most im­pos­si­ble for a child to counter the ex­clu­sion. Usu­ally they don’t even have an op­por­tu­nity to ask why they are be­ing left out. Even if they have op­por­tu­nity they may not have the con­fi­dence to find out.

For most chil­dren, talk­ing di­rectly about the ex­clu­sion, may in­crease their fears of dis­cov­er­ing that their be­lief that they are un­like­able will be con­firmed by their for­mer friends.

For this rea­son, it is crit­i­cal that par­ents, teachers, sports coaches or any­one in charge of the group of chil­dren, get in­volved. In an ideal world, the adults at school or at the var­i­ous ex­tra-cur­ric­u­lar ac­tiv­i­ties could have in­ter­vened, had they no­ticed, to try get her friends to be in­clu­sive again.

If you think about how we ad­dress this with much younger chil­dren, on a play-date for ex­am­ple, we sim­ply tell the group that ev­ery­one must be let play and ev­ery­one must play to­gether. We just don’t let the group scape­goat or ex­clude one mem­ber.

We need to adopt the same ap­proach even when chil­dren are older.

Since the ex­clu­sion of your daughter hap­pened years ago, the op­por­tu­nity to do this with her for­mer friends has passed. Your fo­cus now needs to be on help­ing your daughter to re-build her self-es­teem. She also needs an op­por­tu­nity to find a new friend or friends. This chal­lenge may feel like a bit of a catch 22 sit­u­a­tion for her.

Per­haps she feels too ner­vous and un­sure of her­self to take part in things, and yet she can­not build up her so­cial con­fi­dence un­til she takes part in things and re­alises that not only can she cope, but that she can flour­ish too.

So, per­haps for your daughter, a pe­riod of ther­apy, fo­cused on her ex­pe­ri­ences of be­ing ex­cluded and also on how she can now re­build her self-es­teem, might give her the re­silience to take the risk of try­ing to make new friends.

Your un­der­stand­ing of the dilem­mas she faces and the fears she may have, along with gen­tle, but firm, en­cour­age­ment might give her the im­pe­tus to get back into the so­cial fray.

If you can think of some­one who might go along with her (a cousin, a fam­ily friend or such like) that could help ease those ini­tial steps back into a group, it could also re­duce the risk she may feel she is tak­ing.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Ireland

© PressReader. All rights reserved.