Dear Claudia,

My kid doesn’t have friends at school. What should I do?


Dear Frustrated,

Thinking your child doesn’t have friends in school is extremely painful. However, a little-known secret is that it is much more painful for the parent than the child. While children often accept social dynamics as part of life, adults feel the double pain of their child’s hurt as well as their own, past hurt. Parents also have the added pressure of wanting to do something. .

The best course of action for you to take is twofold. First, try to stay away from lecturing your child about what they could be doing to make more friends. If they are having trouble, they are probably grumpy and in need of a friend, so listening to them and saying only nice things to them is particularly important.

The second thing you can do is find out from your child what, if anything, they want to do about the situation. If they want to invite someone over, get the phone number. If they want cookies to buy a friendship, buy the cookies. If they want to do nothing, agree that it is sometimes best to do nothing. Whatever their plan, encourage them in it, provide them with the information or resources they may need, but try not to improve upon it. This strategy will instill confidence, which, ultimately, is the best thing you can offer your child when is comes to experiencing rejection.

What will make it easier for you to be a friend to your child, as well as encourage them to solve their own problems, is also thinking about your own relationship to belonging. Does your child’s problem bring back painful times for you? Are the painful feelings part of who you are today? Using this opportunity to explore your own relationships to belonging, will not only help your child to grow, but help you accept and manage this common aspect of life as well.

Without knowing your child, you have two tactics to use. The first, if your child has no friends, is to try to get a very deep understanding of what the child is feeling and thinking. Working solely on their behavior will do little to address the underlying foundation of the problem, which is undoubtedly about what the child is feeing.

If your child has some friends, and is not struggling with this problem with everyone,  come up with solutions and strategies for how to make friends. This can include making eye contact and listening, to bribing with cookies and candy! You local Family Services agencies often provide therapy groups and training, which most kids enjoy.

Talking with your child by avoiding the pitfalls of lecturing, will go a long way. Often, adjustment problems are more difficult for the parent than the child.

The best thing we can do is be available but actually but out of our kids lives. They just want us to respect and love them. Director was a cast-out – his mother enjoyed him staying home and bought him a camera! She just enjoyed him, and that’s all you have to do. Think of things like “march to beat of diff. drummer” etc. 

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