My daughter is a very smart and beautiful little girl, 11 years old. I am very concerned about the fact that she does not have friends. She generally avoids going to houses where her classmates gather or engaging in activities with them, using various excuses. She prefers to spend time indoors with her siblings and enjoys reading, painting, and playing the piano. When I ask her why she does not want to hang out with her classmates, she replies that she has nothing to discuss with them. I am very worried about her social behavior and I am afraid that she will be marginalized by her peers. How can I help her socialize better?
It is important for the child to make friends and socialize with peers because through this process she knows herself better, cultivates self-esteem, and builds autonomy from the family while at the same time, she learns how to deal with relationships, to solve problems together, to share.
However, each child is an individual person and has her own personality and maturity as well as her own rhythms of socialization. Usually, from the age of 11 onwards, the child seeks to make friends with whom she no longer connects by playing – talking becomes the main social vehicle. She is therefore looking for friends with whom she has common interests or a common way of thinking.
But this is sometimes difficult, when a child is much more mature than her age. These children do not easily match children of their age and often seek the company of older children. They often also enjoy the time they spend alone.
Something similar may be happening to your daughter. It would be good to have a conversation with her to understand exactly what concerns her in her relationships with her classmates, what she means when she says that she has nothing to share with them. You can even discuss the importance of friendship and ask her what she expects to get from a friendship and what can she give. You can bring her examples from your own life at her age that might help her. However, in no case would it help if you become pushy or try to impose your point of view.
You could even encourage your daughter to enroll in some extracurricular activities in which she will come into contact with children with whom she has common interests and will be outside the school environment. This may make it easier for her to find peers with whom she can discuss issues. It will also create shared experiences with them, which is crucial for building and maintaining friendships in the long run.
It could also be the case that your daughter has less need for company because she has siblings close to her age with whom she can share common interests and have a good time. Usually children who grow up with many siblings have less social relationships outside the family, depending, of course, on their character.
But if the problem continues to worry you, it would be good to consult a mental health professional to make sure that there is nothing else hidden behind your child's behavior. Because many times a child may prefer to be alone not because she enjoys solitude but because she is not accepted by those around her. In this case, the child's behavior often shows sadness or frustration, and then she needs help and a supportive environment.
Stavroula Tsoutsa is a Certified Holistic Professional and Life Coach, Certified Heartmath Coach/Mentor, and Certified Points of You practitioner.