My eight-year-old daughter has difficulties making friends. She spends most of her time alone at home. She is constantly picked on and teased at school and doesn’t care to make friends with any of the girls. I am really concerned about her. Any advice?
I am glad to hear that you are concerned about your daughter. Although you do not give very many details about other aspects of her behavior, it does sound like she is extremely isolative and that, for some reason, other kids tease her and pick on her.
We all know that some children are born to be gregarious, and some children are born to be shy. Shy children, who are sometimes also a bit “slow to warm up” to new situations, like to take their time when they meet new people. They move into activities, especially social activities, slowly and cautiously. This is perfectly normal and just part of the normal variations in temperament that make us who we are.
However, the behavior you describe in your daughter appears to be more extreme than simple “shyness.” It sounds like she does not enjoy any aspect of being around other children and prefers to be all by herself. It also sounds like, for reasons that are not clear, she is the target of teasing and unkind behavior. This raises my concerns.
A child who is simply temperamentally on the shy side actually does enjoy playing with other kids — she just takes a little longer to make friends and to feel comfortable with her playmates. The fact that other children are picking on your daughter might indicate that they perceive her as “different” in some way (unfortunately, kids can be very cruel to a child who is perceived to be vulnerable or an outcast).
Your daughter should be seen by a child psychiatrist to evaluate her interpersonally isolative behavior. It could be a sign of extreme social anxiety or depression, which might warrant treatment. It could possibly be a manifestation of other serious psychiatric problems that should be identified and treated as soon as possible. In a small percentage of cases, children who are very socially and interpersonally awkward and “different” are at risk for serious neurobiologic disorders when they grow up.
One of the things we are starting to learn is that relationships with other people, especially friendships, are very important for our mental health-all throughout our lives and especially as we are growing and developing during childhood and adolescence. It is very important for your daughter to experience some satisfying friendships as part of her childhood.