My teenage daughter has no friends
Q: My 14-year-old daughter has no good friends. It really bothers her, she feels selfconscious about it. She went to a small rural primary school and because of her birthday date, my husband, her teacher, and I had to make a decision whether she should go into the next year up, or stay where she is for another year.
We chose to keep her down for another year, we thought it may benefit her academically. Our decision to not put her up caused her to be the oldest/most mature in her year group. That decision was made 9-10 years ago and I still question it because the only strong friendships she has ever had have been in the year above her.
She has played sport and joined out-of-school clubs since primary school and still plays sport but no friendships have come from it and she is now wanting to quit.
I guess what I am asking is, what can I do for her? As a parent it breaks my heart to know she sits by herself at school. When she gets rejected or excluded from a friend group she is trying to join it really knocks her confidence and upsets her.
The only times my daughter goes out socially is when she has organised it, people cancel on her so she has stopped trying. She hasn’t been invited to a birthday party let alone just hanging out with mates since primary school. She’s constantly asking to move school but because of where we live moving school is not an option. A: The decision you made all those years ago about class placement is probably irrelevant now. You made it in good faith and there’s plenty of instances where your exact situation has had a favourable outcome.
Some children – in fact many children – find their schooldays tough for a variety of reasons and it’s not until they leave school that they find their real friends or find their ‘‘place’’. It may be that your daughter will be a better fit for connecting with people when she’s an adult.
In the meantime, you could chat with your daughter about friendship and how it works. Does she understand reciprocity, listening, sharing? Does she ask people about themselves? Does she give off an air of desperation? You could also set up a meeting with her teacher to see if there’s an aspect of your daughter’s personality that might cause her to be on the outer.
You say your husband was her teacher in the early days. Did he notice your daughter having any trouble with social cues?
Another suggestion is that you befriend some of the mothers? Invite families over and let your daughter socialise in a group situation. These suggestions will only work if your daughter actually wants your help. It may be that your strategising and interfering makes things worse for her.
If that’s the case, you might just have to be empathetic and listen. Help her find joy in things that are more alone. Once she loses the panic and desperation, she’ll be more attractive to her peer group.
You can guide your daughter in all aspects of socialisation but at the end of the day, she’ll have to figure this out for herself. We want to fix things for our children but this may be one thing you can’t fix.
Many children find their schooldays tough and it’s not until they leave school that they find their real friends.