Making friends

by Cellobella on Monday, February 18, 2008 · 27 comments

Key WestIt’s not easy making friends at a new school, even if you know some of the girls already.

My daughter has recently moved from a small school with just five girls to a big girls’ school with 56 girls in her year, and she’s finding it surprisingly hard to make friends.

She’s generally a confident little soul but I think all the “newness” is a bit overwhelming. Also I imagine she had the idea that the gang of 5 would stick together. That hasn’t been the case. The other girls seem to have hooked up faster than she has and she feels left out, and a little lost, maybe even betrayed.

But what can you do as a parent?

One night last week she was inconsolable. :(

I offered to have new friends (or old) over for a play. I suggested she listen more to new acquaintences to see if they had some things in common. I even asked her to consider chatting to her teacher – also new – who might have some ideas.

On the train to work I met a colleague who had had a daughter go to the same school. She suggested I contact the principal of the junior school and see if she had any ideas but I hesitated.

I don’t want to necessarily rescue Dippity – I mean, this could be an important life lesson for her – but I don’t want her to be miserable at school either! (She of course wants me to rescue her)

Today she came home with the crumbs of new friendships. One girl had mentioned that she liked Avatar – Dippity LOVES Avatar, and she had fun with another girl during sport. She seemed happier and more like my darling Dippity.

So what’s your advice?

Hang back and be there for cuddles at the end of a disappointing day? Or is there something proactive I can do?

{ 27 comments }

Colin Campbell February 18, 2008 at 8:38 pm

My daughter aged nine just moved school from a relatively small school to a much larger school. She had been with the same group since kindergarten and we were a little apprehensive. She has a great teacher and is developing some new friends. She is still in touch with her old friends.

We had many shorter term issues with friendships when she was younger. More to do with jelousy and bullying.

I am no expert and my instinct would be to quietly intervene, but I am no good at fixing things for a nine year old. Her mum is much better at that. No good answers I think. I can’t remember my parents ever intervening on my behalf when things were really bad. Perhaps that is why I want to fix things. Low self esteem it is a terrible thing.

Cellobella February 18, 2008 at 8:40 pm

But how?

Babyamore (Trish) February 18, 2008 at 9:21 pm

I think If I was you I might give it a few more days to see where the new crumbs of friendship goes and then ring… most years have a year co-ordinator. Schools encourage an open door policy when parents have concerns and lack of friends for Dippity would be a top concern for the school because it affects her self esteem.Whilst not actual bullying being excluded from groups is soul destroying. Dippity doesn’t have to know if you don’t want her too.

Whether unintentional or not – the other girls might need some help to welcome new students.Ice breaking type activities etc.

At my niece’s school they are sending them away on school camp this week – for many reasons but also to encourage new students (entering y7 at her private school to get to know the existing ones)

I would rescue her gently and still be there with the hugs.

Joh February 18, 2008 at 9:23 pm

I would call her teacher and mention it to her, ask for her feedback about the situation. Whilst there is not always a lot a teacher can do, when parents contact me, I keep an eye on things and can sometimes make seating arrangements to introduce kids to one another. It’s also great as a teacher, to know if a child is feeling a little fragile. Helps us to help them. They act so brave.
It will probably change overnight though! I know with my own children, who changed schools a few times, by the time I came up with a solution, the problem would already be solved. They are pretty resiliant.

Kin February 18, 2008 at 9:24 pm

Having BTDT I feel for her. Cuddles at the end of the day is a good start.

It can get lonely at school, and for girls it’s especially hard. You’re doing the right thing encouraging her to invite friends over. It is still early in the year though isn’t it? How long has she been there? I know my first year at a new school it took me at least 6 months to get anywhere.

Encourage also extra-curricular activities. Does she play a sport? an instrument? have a hobby? Encourage these things as a way of connecting with people. On girl I met in year 8 when we did debating together and I are still best friends – despite not being THAT close while at school. She is the guardian for our children. If I hadn’t joined the debating team I never would have got to know her.

Give her big hugs from a stranger on the internet ;) and ask her how she would like you to help :)

Trish February 18, 2008 at 9:47 pm

I think everyone’s suggestions are good. My nine year old just likes to be listened to when she’s got something on her mind, and she likes to do ALL the talking. She’ll accept some advice, but she is much happier when she comes up with the problem-solving ideas herself – which she usually does, if I just keep ‘active listening’. It’s amazing how quickly she’ll discover the answers on her own if I just let her talk.

I’d give it a few more days, and if it’s not working then a casual chat with her teacher, just an inquiry about how she’s settling in, might be enough to get things moving. Good luck.

Trish Greenmount February 18, 2008 at 9:57 pm

My daughter is turning the magical age of 40 this year and she thinks I am a great Mum!
If asked what she would have changed in her early years it is that I could have rescued her when she went to Year 8 at an all Girl’s School in Perth after being at a smaller government school in the suburbs.
She had two older brothers and they did not want or need me to be seen with them at school and so I thought that was how I should be with her but not so.
Ask her what she would like you to do….let her teacher know….and give her lots of hugs every day. They do not grow up overnight when they go into Year 8 as I used to think.
As a former teacher, Year 5 and Year 7/8 are the most awful years for changing schools and making new friends. The turn-around is quick once the right buttons are pushed!

Cellobella February 18, 2008 at 11:34 pm

Wow – thank you for all your considered comments. :)

We have a parent-teacher interview coming up so may mention it then.

She’s only been there about 2 weeks so it is early days – you just want everything to be immediately perfect don’t you?

hazelblackberry February 19, 2008 at 7:37 am

Best of luck for BOTH of you. I’m sure if she’s patient and friendly, then things will work themselves out – after all, she’s had friends before, why wouldn’t she have them again?? I think primary school is a lot easier for these transitions than high school. I moved around a lot for primary and was fine but would have HATED having to break into a new high school.

Fingers crossed for Dippity!

Mel February 19, 2008 at 9:40 am

It’s admirable to see you drawing the line between a parent’s compulsive over-protectiveness and the need to foster independence.

As you said, young chilren are very impressionable and rather wary of change. I think it’s merely a matter of adapting and becoming familiar with one’s “new” surroundings.

Nonetheless, children are social creatures. I’m sure things are working out just fine.

A new reader,
Mel~

Lightening February 19, 2008 at 9:45 am

Starting a new school is REALLY tough. I remember those days all too well.

I don’t think it hurts for staff at the school to have a “heads up” on the situation. At the very least they can be more aware and watchful. Talking to the school doesn’t necessarily mean you’re intervening or “rescuing”.

I honestly can’t see that the trials I went through changing schools (although I didn’t get the support at home either) made me any stronger or better person. But maybe I just don’t “get it”.

You sound like a wonderfully supportive mother and allowing her to cry on your shoulder and validating her feelings that it is hard is so important. Backed up I guess by the fact that “hard” isn’t always “bad”.

Sending you both (((HUGS))) cos I know how hard it is to watch a child struggle with something and want to help even if it’s not always possible.

Hope things work themselves out.

Cellobella February 19, 2008 at 10:42 am

Welcome Mel – and thanks for commenting – it’s nice to have a new reader. :)

You know I feel a lot more positive about her even just talking to you guys about it. I had to fill out a “silent interview” sheet for parent-teacher interviews coming up and mentioned it briefly in passing there – and Dipp mentioned that her teacher had asked her how it was going so I’m hopeful.

Sometimes with making friends there’s a bit of “Feel the fear, and do it anyway” when it comes to striking up conversations and asking to be included isn’t there.

feline February 19, 2008 at 11:18 am

phewee …
some ideas and thoughts:

-pack up her lunchbox with yummy things to share … could be a good way to get a conversation going for her!

- do talk to the school to check in – you wouldn’t be blogging about this if you weren’t concerned, i can feel the tension in your words – even a private conversation that dippety doesn’t know about. see later idea too ….

- is there something that dippety can take to school that relates to the avatar game?

- tell dippety to smile even when she doesn’t feel like it. she could have a few dreams and memories to draw on so that she has something to smile about …eg when you’re feeling glum, think about the time dad did this or taht….. research shows people who smile are liked more!

- suggest dippety talk to her teacher about ways to promote the stopping of using of palm oil. how could this fit within the curriculum? could dippety enroll a few mates to run a stall to promote awareness of this issue – could you provide a prize for dippety to run a raffle?

alicat

Tanya February 19, 2008 at 11:25 am

Hi!

I accidentally found your page, but loved your blog. You remind me of my mum when I started school. She went and asked the teacher what she could do and the teacher introduced her to another mother whose daughter was struggling to make friends. So they started making playdates for us and we became best friends. We drifted apart in highschool but still occasionally catch up.

Maybe there are other girls who are having trouble making friends?

Dippity February 19, 2008 at 3:52 pm

Hi everyone this is me (dippity) and I would like to say THANKS!!!!!!!!!!

and it is great how I have so many tips!!

I just got home today with great news… I have a friend!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! not a best friend but a good way to start meeting people like there’s this other girl whos my ‘friend’ and she drew a picture of toph and aang and showed me (YAY) a start of a new friendship??

Thank you again bi bi

Dippity February 19, 2008 at 3:54 pm

OH yer about those extra curriculum activities.. I got into the middle school math extension! also i’ve
joined wings!

Cellobella February 19, 2008 at 4:11 pm

Translation: Toph and Aang are characters in Avatar
Wings: Is a drama group

Once again thanks for all your support and tips.
xx

Helen February 19, 2008 at 7:37 pm

I started a private girls school in yr 6 – after attending a small public school. It was tough. I thought I would be friends at school with the girl next door – who had been attending the school for a few years. We had played at school holidays previously, but she dissed me at school.

I guess I cramped her style.

I was not popular enough – made worse by my mother wanting to know all about it and braodcasting it to everyone! She targeted square/dorky girls’ mothers and encouraged frienships with their children – shudder!

In later years my mother took it upon herself to report my next door neighbour to the school when she organised a contraband party.

To this day my former next door neighbour and I do not speak – despite what was once a pretty good fiendship. Thanks Mum – NOT.

I was a dork by proxy! – all the way to yr12.

Helen February 19, 2008 at 7:40 pm

Sorry for the rant (no – I have no issues – really I don’t ;)

I think give it time – Dippity will work it out – and be far more confident and happier if she can do it on her own terms.

Girls and their friends – very fragile things.

Be there with hugs and support on the home front.

Helen February 19, 2008 at 7:47 pm

Dippity – I eventually made loads of friends with other newbies. Heaps of them arrived in yr7 and all in the same boat as I was!

A MUCH better year in terms of friends :-)
I am still friends with many of them to this day.

Good luck! – and hugs from me :-)

M February 19, 2008 at 8:24 pm

I had a long chat to a friend about a similar situation when her girl moved to a new (private)school. She spent about 6 months in friend limbo before the parents finally spoke to the teacher. The teacher then lept right on the case: she met quietly with the daughter each week discussing strategies for meeting/making friends, she deliberately set up work groups containing girls she thought would make appropriate friends and she talked generally to the whole class (and year, I think) about the importance of inclusion etc.
The result: a girl who has lept right out of her comfort zone, has grown exponentially and has a lovely circle of friends.

So, I would talk to the teacher. If he/she is worth his/her salt something positive will be done.

Cellobella February 19, 2008 at 10:47 pm

Hi Helen, I hear you. I think that’s why I’ve not gone in all guns blazing – the last thing I want to do is make it worse. :)

Trishg February 20, 2008 at 12:17 am

Am sorry I wrote but just responded when I saw your daughter sitting there like that… all the best…

cellobella February 20, 2008 at 12:18 am

Trishg I loved your comment. I think what I’m getting from this is that it’s not something that has a “one size fits all” solution.
:)

squib February 20, 2008 at 9:30 am

CB My oldest girl (13) had problems developing friendships also. She’s a good natured little soul and I’m not sure what the problem was. She had one really good friend at primary and when that girl went to another school, my girl would sit on her own every day. Which broke my heart

Since starting at an all girl’s school she at least has a larger range of possible friendships. She has been there since grade 7 and only made 2 really good friends. But she’s a lot happier now

I think it just takes time (and luck) sometimes and there isn’t much you can really do

Cellobella February 20, 2008 at 11:11 am

I also think there’s a real emphasis on having “a best friend” – especially in books and tv shows – and really that’s not something that happens overnight. I think Dipp is getting that to start with you try and be friendly to as many people as possible and then maybe you’ll click with someone.

Sanam September 1, 2008 at 3:01 pm

It is good website

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