Dear Family Coach: My daughter is friendly with most of my friends' daughters. They have always been a tight-knit group. But recently some of the kids are starting to exclude her and can be mean. Should I talk to my friends about it to try and help her, or should I stay out of it? —In the Middle
Dear In the Middle: I'll take a wild guess that your daughter is probably somewhere between fourth and sixth grade. The girls have always been buddy-buddy and suddenly, almost inexplicably, they are turning on your daughter. Your daughter is distraught. She has tried everything to make it work. Now she is turning apoplectic, and you want to help.
Of course you do. But you can't.
When children are in preschool, parents perform some social engineering to get their kids to play with those of their friends. Young children aren't finicky about play dates and parents earn some respite in sharing parenting time with friends. That four o'clock date can act as a lifeline.
As children grow up sometimes their interests change and personalities might not be a match anymore. It is a mistake to continue to push these friendships. Instead, empathize with your daughter about how much it hurts that some of the girls seem to be leaving her out. Also help her identify some different friendships. Ask the new girl in class over for movie night or encourage her to try hanging out with the girl up the block, the one who's always riding her bike past your house. Just be prepared that there may also be a temporary strain on your friendships, too.
Dear Family Coach: My child has very few afterschool activities. He likes to come home, relax, read and play around the house. I worry that he is isolating himself and will feel left behind. Should I push him to do more activities or play dates? — TKTK
Dear TKTK Mom: There are some children who want to be on the go all day. They like, and often frankly need, to be highly stimulated for large portions of the day. Other children, like your son, start to shut down. He might be an introvert who needs to regroup after a tough day of pushing himself to his social limits. Maybe sensory issues make him feel overly stimulated with all of the hustle and bustle of the school day. It's not wise to push him just for the sake of joining the crowd.
Many of today's parents have kids in karate on Mondays, piano on Tuesdays, religious school on Wednesdays, soccer on Thursdays and Sundays and on and on and on. Sometimes parents keep kids so occupied that they never learn to play on their own or enjoy downtime. Having the time to quietly read a book in a comfy chair alone might be one of life's greatest pleasures.
If your son is happy at home and isn't experiencing any difficulties, let him be. Maybe make a couple cups of hot chocolate, grab a book and curl up on the couch next to your son. I bet there are quite a few parents who would jump at a chance to relax alongside their children.
Dr. Catherine Pearlman, the founder of The Family Coach, LLC, advises parents on all matters of child rearing. To write to Dr. Pearlman, send her an email at [email protected] To find out more about Dr. Catherine Pearlman and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.