Parental tip: Adjustment to middle school is a big change. Do not assume that your child is a reliable reporter regarding homework. Parents need to check homework assignments online or in the homework planner. Do assume that 99 percent of the time, your child will have homework assigned.
Q: My 8-year-old daughter comes home from school every day and complains about one or two other girls who call her names and exclude her from playing with them and a few others at recess. What should I tell her? She gets so upset, and I feel helpless.
A: Your daughter needs to feel empowered to take action, and she needs to know that she has choices. She can tell a teacher who may take action during recess times. However, your daughter will generally be better off if she develops skills to manage her difficulties with peers. If there are friends who do want to play with her, invite them over for one-to-one playtimes and see how they interact. Is your daughter kind and fun for the other child to be with? If she does well in one-to-one encounters, invite one or two more friends and observe her social behavior in larger peer groups. It’s possible that in group situations, she loses her ability to speak up for herself or she becomes overly bossy. Compromise is everything in larger peer groups, and some children do not have natural skills in this area.
Please do not be critical of your child. If she does not know how to be social in a group, she can learn with support and guidance. If everything appears fine when she socializes during these scheduled play times, then maybe she is seeking out girls at school who are inappropriate friends for her. If this is the case, explain what makes a good friend and ask if those girls are acting like good friends. If those girls are not able to act like good friends, then your daughter should probably avoid playing with them. It is an important but difficult lesson to learn, that not everyone will like her, and she must accept this and seek out girls who do enjoy her company and friendship.
Parental tip: Empower your child by teaching them social skills, including avoiding peers who do not want to play with them or who make them feel bad when they interact.
Dr. Kate Roberts is a licensed clinical psychologist and certified school psychologist with offices in Salem and Hamilton. Her private practice helps parents, children and families develop strategies to work through and solve their problems. Send your questions to kate@kateroberts