For many children, whether or not they have friends at school is more important to them then how they are doing academically. A good friend can make all the difference.
What your child may be trying to tell you
- I'm having trouble making friends.
- I do things to mask my learning difficulties, even if it alienates other people.
- I don't have confidence in myself.
- I'm sad.
How you can respond
- Try to draw out specific examples of why your child is feeling this way.
- Give him guidance in forming friendships.
- Help him determine what makes a good friend.
- Find ways your child can be a helper at home and at school.
- Role-play social situations that are difficult for your child.
- Trust your instincts if you worry about the severity of these feelings.
Encourage the child who struggles
Try to draw out specific examples of why your child is feeling this way
You may find that the problem is with one student, one adult, or in a particular setting. Is there another student who is being distracting or unkind? Is there a teacher who he feels is treating him unfairly? Is he acting out in ways that are irritating to other students? Is he disrupting instructional time because he's frustrated? Help him brainstorm a plan to address the problem. It will probably be most effective to then enlist the help of someone at school to help him carry out the plan.
Give him guidance in forming friendships
Some children long to be friends with the popular kids and overlook other kids in their class who may be a more comfortable and logical fit. Ask your child's teacher to suggest someone who might make good friend for him. Help to cultivate this friendship outside of school and, in the beginning, give him any support he needs with appropriate social skills. Ask for his teacher's help in nurturing this friendship in the classroom. For example, the two kids can sit next to each other, be classroom helpers, and take notes to the office together.
Help him determine what makes a good friend
Brainstorm a list of the qualities he would like in a friend. Does he know anyone who exhibits those qualities? Does he act like the type of person that he would want to be friends with? What can he do to become a better friend?
Find ways that your child can be a helper at home and at school
Helping others is often a powerful way to boost self-esteem. It's wonderful to feel needed! Maybe he could be a reading buddy to a student in a lower grade or, if he has a good relationship with the P.E. teacher, he could help set up the P.E. equipment before school. At home, he could help plan, shop for, and prepare meals. He will be making a genuine contribution to the family and these activities will provide him with many opportunities to practice his reading skills.
Role-play social situations that are difficult for your child
Act out different situations and outcomes and the consequences of each. Another benefit of role-playing is that your child might feel more comfortable sharing with you something that is bothering him if he is "in character."
Trust your instincts
If you worry about the severity of these feelings of alienation and sadness, talk about your concerns with the appropriate school personnel, such as teachers, social workers, school psychologists, and guidance counselors. They can help you determine the next step to take.