North County Outlook - Community newspaper serving Marysville, Arlington, Tulalip, Smokey Point, Lakewood

Helping kids deal with rejection, loneliness

 

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Dear Ms. Davis: My 10-year-old daughter complains often that she doesn't have any friends, and when she does have a friend or two, they seem to fight a lot. How can I help her?

Worried Mom

Answer: As parents, it's painful to watch our children suffer pain, rejection and loneliness, when they either don't seem to have friends, or can't get along with them. These experiences, however, are often part of the "growing up" process. It's a mistake for us to think we can fix this or protect our children by trying to play intermediary, offering unsolicited advice, arranging play dates, talking to the parent of the other friend, etc. Our children absolutely need to develop their 'disappointment' muscles, by being allowed to have their feelings, talk about what's going on, and then figure out what they can do about it. An important note here is that if parents stay out of it, children often get over the experience much more quickly.

Your best response is to listen empathetically (Gosh, your feelings were really hurt when Suzie said that!), ask non-judgmental questions (What happened? How did it happen? How might you solve this problem?, etc), and offer support (Let me know if you need a sounding board, or if you want some suggestions).

Sometimes it's helpful to share your own stories of childhood disagreement ... what happened and how you felt.

Don't push your child to make up with a friend before she is ready, and if she decides to cut off a friendship, trust her - it's important to have faith in your daughter, and not treat her as a victim.

Some of the best tools for life that we can provide our children are those that help them understand themselves and make decisions about others in the world ... why they like or dis like a particular person, how/why did they choose a person to be their friend? Having these kinds of conversations with our children will help them articulate their thoughts and feelings.

Please note that I am talking about typical life experiences – not experiences like bullying or safety issues such as abuse of any kind.

I hope this helps.

Penny G. Davis, M.A

Respectful Relationships Consulting

 

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