Friendship Issues

May 4, 2008 – 7:19 pm

Making and keeping friends is a complex skill that comes easier to some children than others. It is said that babies develop a preference for friends when just over a year old, so it is obvious that problems with friends or the lack of them can happen to youngsters at any age and this is frequently the cause of much unhappiness.

Learning the hard way

The difficulty is that the rules can only be learned the hard way and the best way for a child to develop the knack of forming and sustaining friendships is to spend as much times in the company of other children. Therefore, the more opportunity you give your child to mix with others of their own age, the more experience they will gain.

Keep “mum” about your worries

Parents are often anxious about their children’s social skills, worry if they feel they are isolated or left out and interpret friendships as being a sign of achievement or acceptability. Do be careful not to let your anxiety about this become too obvious. Remember that some children prefer to have one ‘special’ friend whilst others favour relationships that wax and wane.

Tips for Making and Keeping friends

Here are some simple tips for making and keeping friends, particularly suitable for children between the ages of eight and thirteen, that you can pass on if the need arises.

  • Be a good listener – Look at your friends when they are talking to you. Show them that you are paying attention and won’t be distracted.
  • Share willingly – Not just your sweets! Be OK about your friends having other friends too
  • Be loyal – avoid the temptation to “bad mouth” them to others. If you can’t say it to their face, don’t say it
  • Say nice things – give your friends compliments (genuine ones). Show them that you value and like them
  • Be honest – when asked for your opinion, tell the truth. Don’t lie.
  • Show interest – let people know you are interested in them. Don’t just talk about yourself, ask questions about others
  • Give space – friends need freedom to do things without you sometimes
  • Be accepting – not all of your friends have to think and act like you do. It would be boring if they did!

In our work with children in schools, friendship problems come within the “top ten” issues raised and are frequently linked with other problems such as lack of confidence and low self-esteem.


Peer pressure becomes very acute during adolescence when the need to be accepted becomes paramount. The problems are compounded by the fact that peers can be very fickle as well as cruel at this age and it is not unusual for a whole group to ‘gang up’ on one and gossip spreads like wild fire.

Parents may find it hard to accept that friends seem to be more important to a teenager than their own family, but this is an essential part of growing up.

How to give support

Teenagers do want and need the support of their parents, however indifferent they may sometimes appear. But there is a fine and difficult line between giving support and “interfering”, in the eyes of the young person. If your teenager wants to talk, be available for them at that time if you possibly can, rather than putting them off until later.

Try to listen objectively – hard to do if you feel they have suffered an injustice at the hands of so-called friends. Encourage them to come up with possible solutions to the problem, rather than suggesting your own, unless you are asked for them.

“Brainstorming” ideas

If the problem is lack of friends, have a “brainstorming” session with them where you both list all the possible ways of meeting new like-minded people.

Then go through the list and help them to select a few possibilities to try. Above all, keep reinforcing the fact that they are likeable and loveable and make sure that you boost their confidence whenever you can.

  1. 45 Responses to “Friendship Issues”

  2. This is a tricky time for many children – just starting a new school or moving forms can prove very unsettling after the long summer break. The whole issue of becoming accepted by a ‘new’ peer group will be all – important to many. Parents can boost confidence by showing an interest in how things are going, being reassuring when listening to any problems and of course celebrating successes.

    By Sue Twort on Sep 17, 2008

  3. Sue, Interesting to think back to my dyslexic son starting a new school some years ago, he developed tummy migraines, bedwetting and crying periods, all because he was scared of all things new. It took a few weeks of gentle reassurance from teachers and family but he did come out of it and made some vital new friends to make him feel he belonged. You may not remember but I did consult you at the time and your advice was invaluable, thank you so much. He has grown out of the nervous problems he had before but we know he still benefits from exactly what you are suggesting especially listening to problems and celebrating successes. Thank you again, Carina Bayley.

    By Carina Bayley on Oct 31, 2008

  4. Hi there can anyone help, My daughter has just started school and i feel like i have the wrong child sent home everyday!!!

    She is rude always shouting over the top of people far too confident for her age and so snappy with everybody i just want to cry when i look at her at the moment.

    I feel really overwhelmed as i know some of this is tiredness and she also has a new baby to deal with of 10 weeks. i am finding it so hard she has always been so happy and kind – i am frightened im going to make matters worse at the moment.

    By Mum on Oct 1, 2010

  5. It sounds like your daughter could be expressing her anxieties about having a new baby in the family as well as adjusting to starting school. Both are huge changes in her young life – and she is expressing her feelings in bad behaviour. Try to have some regular quality time with her, as it is a big shock to a young child when they realise they can’t have all your attention. We’re just about to put a new article on the site – Helping a young child deal with a new baby in the family – and you might find it useful for your situation. Your daughter needs lots of love and reassurance at the moment, but don’t be afraid to give her clear boundaries about any bad behaviour.

    By Sue Twort on Oct 3, 2010

  6. I am experiencing real problems with my daughter who periodically goes through friendship problems and then has terrible mood swings and arguments at home. When everything with her friends is Ok then life at home is easy, but when things are going badly we all suffer terribly! the crux of her problem is that she gets very emotional easily and goes off in a huff when she is annoyed or upset with her friends. One day recently she cried and cried when with them for no apparent reason and was inconsoleable (I put it down to her having her period at the time). understandably, her friends find this sort of behaviour hard to deal with and then distance themselves from her (on this occasion they asked her, by text, not to come to sleep over as she was being “too negative”). My problem is that she doesn’t open up to me until things have got out of control, and when I do try to give advice, she screams at me and accuses me of taking their side. She also often gets upset about her looks (which is hard to realte to because she is particularly pretty) and I am told by another parent that she is known to get upset in her group about how she looks.
    I am at a loss, my husband is working away at the moment and I have a 10 year old son who is suffering as all he hears is us shouting at each other. I know I don’t deal with thigs so well sometimes, but it very frustrating when she only tells me half a story and I have to fill in the gaps from what other girls have told their parents. It makes me look stupid and makes her seem manipulative to teh other parents and so they are a little wary of her. she’s 13 and physically mature if not very emotionally mature. her friendship group is a group of 4 one of whom is a long standing “friend” from her junior school who is a alpha female type and is very mainipulative with the other 2 girls. Any advice would be much appreciated as I’m at the end of my wits.

    By Elizabeth on Oct 27, 2010

  7. Hi Elizabeth, You are certainly not alone in having this problem with your daughter. Girls frequently have many friendship issues in their early teenage years and, as you rightly observe, hormonal issues usually play a huge part in emotional volatility at this time. At 13, the pressure to be accepted by her peer group is very strong and all important – and often parents are seen as not understanding the issues, even if this is absolutely not the case. It is really positive that your daughter opens up to you, even if you feel it is a bit late in the day. My advice is to listen and empathise with her when she confides in you, without offering advice or comment at that stage if you can. Even asking questions can be seen as ‘taking sides’. When she is ‘in a state’ she just needs to offload and maybe the solution-finding part can come a bit later when she is calmer? This will no doubt be hard for you, managing the frustration of it all on your own at the moment. However, you need to show your daughter that you are remaining calm and in control (even if you don’t feel it!)and avoid getting into shouting matches. If she is rude or screams at you, tell her that you do care and you will listen to her when she has calmed down a bit but you will not put up with screaming (or whatever the unacceptable behaviour is). This will benefit your son too. If you do feel you need a bit more personal support on this, we do offer telephone support for parents and you can find details of this on the Services and Fees page. Best of luck.

    By Sue Twort on Oct 28, 2010

  8. Sue, many thanks for your advice, I will certainly take heed of it, and try not to add fuel to the fire in the way I respond to her outbursts.
    I tried to reply to your email but it kept bouncing back. I hope this advice will be useful to thers going through similar things and I will take note of your telephone support service.

    thanks again

    By Elizabeth on Nov 2, 2010

  9. Hi,
    I cannot belive I am sending this as I strongly belive that children should choose and conduct their friendships themselves unless there is a serious problem.
    My daughter has 2 “best friends” they have known each other from the age of 3 and are now in their final year of primary, last week she came home from school quite upset and said that the 2 other mums had been into school about the her and that she and the other girls had been spoken to individualy by one of the teachers, she would not give me any other onfo at the time so I phoned the school, the teacher said the other mums had been in to school as the girls had been arguing a lot, more than usual and one was always feeling left out, this included my daughter who had been quite upset last week after being left out, and both other girls (not the same girl all the time) she said that they had all said the same thing, that they all liked each other and enjoyed playing together but that they all get upset by the arguments, later that day I spoke to my daughter (who finds it very difficult to express her feelings) and she said she knows one of the mums does’t like her as she never speaks to her anymore, and that one of the girls has been told by her mother that she is not allowed to play with her! This would make sense as I have found it near impossiable to arange a playday after school recently, the school have said this is not the case in school but have agreed with the other mothers to try to encourage the girls to play with other children, my daughter has said that she is playing with others but the other 2 are not, she is very hurt by this as she thinks she has done something wrong. I have spoken to one of the other mums as I was upset that she had not spoken to me (she did a couple of years ago and we agreed that the girls should sort out any friendship problems themselves) she denied going into school about the friendship and said she had gone in on another matter, she also said she had not banned her daughter from playing with mine. I have always been of the opinion that girls will argue and be a bit nasty to each other now and then but as long as there is no bullying (which there is not) then they should sort out there differences themselves, my mum always got involved with my arguments at school and I still find it hard to stand up for myself now. My daughter has been very quite this weekend and will not tell me how she is feeling, but I know she is very upset and will not go against the teachers if they tell her to play with others, she has always been tall for her age and the other 2 are small so this does not help, as people tend to expect her to know better and behave more grown up, but I feel its unfair that she is now the only one being left out. I feel the fact that one child has been saying she is not allowed to play with her, has been what has driven a wedge between the girls. I
    also think this group of girls has been manipulated and bullied by one parent and that none of the other girls feelings have been considered.
    How can I help my daughter get through this without feeling bitter (as I do)and how can I encourage her to open up to me a bit more? I really want her to enjoy her last year and have some good memories from it, but now it looks like she will have no friends around after school and will not be invited either, I cannot see the situation with one of the mums improving as she turned down my invitation for her daughter to come to play, saying she thinks they all need a break.

    By Anne on Nov 8, 2010

  10. Hi Anne, This is a tricky situation but sadly not an uncommon one. Three can be a difficult number and often two will ‘pair up’ and exclude the other one. Understandably you feel strongly about how the other mothers have handled the situation, but it is important that you don’t allow your own indignation and bitterness to influence your daughter. The school have suggested playing with other children, which your daughter is doing, and I think that is a good idea. It is good for her not to have ‘all her eggs in one basket’ and this unexpected ‘opportunity’ to seek out and develop new friendships with others will stand her in good stead when she goes to secondary school. My suggestion would be to help her to focus on developing friendships with other children in her class who she likes. Maybe she could invite someone new home for tea? Common interests are useful for developing new friends, things like clubs, sports, games etc. She will open up in her own time as she knows you are there for her. It is hard to just let things evolve naturally when you want it to be sorted out, but being ‘open’ and avoiding asking her questions is the probably the best way forward. Your own past experience has shown you the benefit of letting your daughter find her own way through this – with your support – so trust that too. Hope this helps.

    By Sue Twort on Nov 9, 2010

  11. Hi Sue,
    Thank you for your response, I will try inviting other children for her to spend time with, she does attend sports clubs and I am trying to make this a more regular thing too, thank you again.


    By Anne on Nov 9, 2010

  12. Hi Sue.
    My daughter was bullied throughout Primary School. She is quite a cheerful girl but these incidents hit her hard. She became more confident however as she started seconday school last year and made loads of friends. We chose a different secondary school from the girls of Primary school. It is quite a small secondary school, there are thiry in her year. Since September she is becoming more and more withdrawn. I asked her several times why and she denied any of it. Then last week she came to me saying that all the other girls were begining to exclude her, put her down constantly, they use her. They come to our house quite a lot yet she is never invited to theirs. They all have sleepovers and yet she is not invited. I’m afaird if I say anything to the other girls parents then the girls will take it out on her. It happened in Primary school already where the principal was told, but the bullying just got worse from it. She doesnt want to move schools either as the only other one close to us contains the girls from her primary school. I really don’t know what to say.

    By Eleanor on Mar 4, 2011

  13. Hi Eleanor,
    I am very sorry to hear that your daughter had such bad times at her Primary School and that problems are continuing now. Sadly, this is not that uncommon in our experience and being bullied over a lengthy period often leads to an underlying lack of confidence and self esteem which can exacerbate difficulties with peers. Professional counselling would be very beneficial for her, if it is available. I agree that talking to the other parents might not be useful at this point, but I would suggest you discuss the situation with the school in confidence to see what their view is of these problems and what their suggestions are to resolve the situation. Meanwhile, here are a couple of ideas for you to consider if you feel they might be appropriate for your daughter: Encourage her to focus on just one or two suitable girls to invite over/ make plans with in the short term, as this may help her to feel she has allies and is not so isolated; give her some coaching in acting/ pretending she is “not bothered” about not being invited to sleepovers etc. Encourage her to act like a “winner” rather than a victim, even if she doesn’t feel like that inside. Girls of this age can be very cruel and it will help your daughter if they don’t get the reaction they are looking for.

    The school does have a responsibility for the wellbeing of your daughter whilst in their care and I do hope that you receive a much more positive response than you did from the Primary school. Best of luck with this.

    By Sue Twort on Mar 4, 2011

  14. I have an 11 year old daughter who is struggling with emotions. She seems to express such anger and fustrations but only to me and her step father. Overall she does well..great in school/grades, no signs of depression, seems happy around other family and friends. Her father and I seperated right before she turned 6. He suffered from anger problems and after several years of marriage it become worse and became abusive at times. It was unhealthy and I made the decision to leave. I did seek therapy for both myself and my daughter after we seperated. She still has a relationship with her father, which I support.He seems to have improved with his anger and doesnt have the fits now or at least with her. They seem to get along well and she seems to always show him respect. I feel so often during her rages of anger she mimics her fathers old behaviorthat I so often wittnessed. It is as if she has no control over her emotions. She has even become physical more then once with me and her step father. I and her step father have tried several thigs to help correct her behavior from grounding, trying to talk after she calms down to yelling myself. Yelling of course just intenifies her own anger but I too run out of patience with her. I am at a loss. I desperatly want to help her find control of her anger.

    By nicole on Oct 6, 2011

  15. Hi Nicole
    Understandably you sound at the end of your tether with this situation with your daughter, especially after you have done your utmost to head off problems by seeking therapy after the split with her father.

    Anger is an appropriate emotion felt by everyone and we often feel that temper/ rage is the only way it can be expressed, but that is not the case. Rather than helping your daughter to ‘control’ it – we suggest you help her to find more positive outlets to express it; such as helping her to write a list of what she is angry about, teaching her to safely punch her pillow or mattress. Maybe even have an ‘angry spot’ or bean bag where she can go when she feels like it and jump up and down and shout and scream! Physical activity can also be a useful outlet for these feelings if she has any inclinations to enjoy sports or games. Teach her to recognise when she needs to express her anger and once the emotion is expressed in other ways, there will be a lot less ‘charge’ to be expressed negatively towards you and your husband.

    As you have been in therapy you will already know that it is never an option to say to her ‘you are just like your father’ (even if you feel this to be the case at the time). If she is angry with you and/ or her step-father and you feel you need some support on this, we offer telephone consultations for parents.

    I do hope this helps you.

    By Sue Twort on Oct 13, 2011

  16. I have found it really helpful reading these comments.

    My daughter is 6 and has had a “best friend” since she started school. Whilst they have had other friends, they have both relied heavily on each other. However recently, they have been arguing more and I sense they are growing apart. Her friend has been choosing to play with another child rather than my daughter.

    Understandably my daughter is very upset by this and as well as making her enjoy school less, she is very irritable and not sleeping well at home. She also says things that suggest that she thinks this means it is all her fault. She says she is “bad” or “wrong”.

    I know that it is natural that there will be changes of firendships at this young age, but I want to make sure my actions help my daughter and don’t make things worse, particularly to make sure she doesn’t lose self esteem.

    So far I have tried to listen and suggest other things she can do, like playing with other friends.

    I would appreciate any tips on how to approach this situation to ensure my daughter builds and does not lose self esteem.

    By Stephanie on Jan 11, 2012

  17. The following email response was sent to Stephanie on 12 January 2012 :

    Thank you for your enquiry via the website and your kind comments. We will post your question and our reply on the site, but want to send you these attachments in the meantime.

    You are absolutely right about changes in friendships being natural at this age, but it easy for children to feel they have done something wrong as it is the first time they will have experienced this sort of hurt. We have found that the attached story, “Lola says don’t be sad” has been very helpful for other youngsters going through the same thing. I don’t know if you have already seen it on the website, but there is a nice photo of Lola in the section therapy-dog-helps-confidence, which might help to bring the story to life for your daughter, as Lola is a real dog who helps children!

    The second attachment ‘Girl Talk’ is aimed at older girls, but there are some tips in there that you can use with your daughter, particularly within the sections headed ‘Aims Two and Four’ on the sheet. Making a list of all the people who like/ love her is a good way to help her to feel positive about herself.

    I hope this is useful and your daughter soon has several other friends to play with.

    Kind Regards

    Sue Twort

    By Sue Twort on Feb 7, 2012

  18. My daughter who is 9 has a very good with one friend but they are both having problem with another girl. The third girl wants to be friends with them but from their perspective is controlling, overly sensitive and when things go wrong refuses to to discuss the situation. At first I supported my daughter in her right to stand her ground in situations where she felt overpowered and that worked for her. Then we advised walking away or avoiding confronting situations and the third girl spent some time in other friendships. But it keeps coming up that whenever this girl is involved there is conflict. My daughter is a strong minded person and not vulnerable in this situation. But how do I help her improve the situation, as it has been going on for 14months.

    By Jemma on May 22, 2012

  19. Hi Jemma, Thank you for your enquiry. I think that as your daughter is not in a vulnerable position regarding this girl (who I will call B) it would be good to help her to explore what exactly is going on in the situation. Learning to deal with difficult people is a valuable lesson in life. B is not going to go away, she is at the same school for the next couple of years at least.

    So I suggest that you get her to look at B from a different perspective. What does your daughter LIKE about her? When DO they play nicely together? Is the situation made better or worse when your daughter’s best friend is around? Is B finding it difficult to get other people to play with her? Is she lonely?

    If it seems that B has some problems in interacting with other children then the next route is to approach the teacher and ask her to observe your daughter and B in School and see what s/he thinks is happening.

    Do let us know how you and your daughter get on, best of luck.

    By Sue Twort on May 23, 2012

  20. I have an eight year old daughter who has problems with friends at school, she attends a small primary school and frequently comes home with tales of other children being unkind to – usually the same one or two girls. This often involves name calling and excluding her from their games. I have encouraged her to try and mix with other girls at school but she finds it difficult to break into other cliques of girls. I am currently trying to encourage her to join as many after school activities as I can too try and boost her confidence (although she is quite shy and always very keen to do this). I talk alot to her about how to be a good friend and even try and role play a it but she just seems to find it hard to make friends – she is otherwise a lovely brigh little girl. Unfortunately her school is not particularly helpful and tends to brush it off as girls being girls. It is so heartbreaking seeing her so sad – any tips?.

    By Laura C on May 30, 2012

  21. Dear Laura

    Yes, I’m afraid this sort of behaviour is very common in girls aged 8 – 9
    when they can be very unkind to their peers. Unfortunately it is the
    sensitive ones who bear the brunt of the spite as they take it all to heart
    whereas the tougher ones just shrug off the name calling and being left out.

    I think the first thing to do is to be very positive and upbeat about this
    to your daughter. I know it is heartbreaking BUT you must not let her see
    that you are upset, worried or overly anxious about the situation.

    Secondly, you can teach her how to react when they are being mean. What
    they want is a reaction from your daughter, to see her upset or angry. If
    she does this they get what they want. So, if for example they shout out
    names to her she needs to have a strategy in place that shows she is not in
    the slightest bit bothered, such as talking to the dinner lady or showing
    her new pencil case to the teacher. So, not only ignoring them, showing she
    is disinterested as well. Get her to target girls who she knows WILL play
    with her and to spend time with them, openly enjoying herself so that the
    meanies see she isn’t hankering after them.

    Don’t accept a brush off from the teacher. Children deserve to go into
    school and enjoy themselves, not to be miserable. Things can be put in
    place to give your daughter more encouragement and support if she needs it.

    Good luck


    By Sue Twort on Jun 16, 2012

  22. My son is 13, sensitive and nervous he was bullied at primary school and struggled to settle at secondary school. After a lot of support he developed good friendships and became a really happy child achieving well & confidence growing. Lately his friends have given hm the cold shoulder and stopped including him at break times and tutor times. We wouldn’t let him go and see a horror film & he isn’t allowed to play violent computer games like they are. He understands this and doesn’t have a problem with our standards except that he now feels outside the group. He hates school, is having anxiety attacks and said he wishes he was dead. School are trying to support him, his friends say they are not being mean to him, but he seems to be on a downwards spiral. We have invited his school friends over & it seems to go well but he says at school he is lonely and unwanted. It’s so upsetting, every morning I have to take him crying to school.

    By Verity on Jul 2, 2012

  23. I am very sorry to hear about the horrible time your son is having at the moment. He has done well to overcome the bullying he experienced in primary school and it sounds as if he now could do with some professional help to cope with his anxiety attacks, boost his self esteem and help him to identify and focus on his strengths. At this age peer pressure is very strong and it is good news that the school are being supportive. Maybe there are some other boys there he could develop friendships with so that he isn’t relying totally on this particular friendship group? Perhaps you and your son could consider some new activities he would enjoy to build his confidence during the holidays and make more friends out of school too? Although it is very hard for you, it is important that you convey to your son that you believe in his ability to get through this and don’t show him how upset you feel – he has been through tough times before and can come through again. Maintain a ‘positive attitude’ whilst still listening to him and if things do not improve very soon, seek further support from the school, your GP and/ or an experienced counsellor. Wishing you best of luck.

    By Sue Twort on Jul 4, 2012

  24. Thank you for sound advice. We have had a very bad few days. The panic attacks are increasing he is shaking even in his sleep. Not eating and exhausted. We are seeking professional help as he says he has had enough and wants to go back to being a “normal boy”.

    By Verity on Jul 5, 2012

  25. Hi, My 10 year old son gets on great with friends and cousins when he can pair up and play with just one person at a time, but when he is in a larger group, say 3 or 4 he finds it very difficult. Often isolating himself and feeling paranoid that no one wants to play with him. Invariably this leads to frustration and anger and feeling hurt, which sometimes results in him having to be isolated from the group as he causes trouble to seek attention. We really need to address this as it is becoming a big problem and I feel he needs to learn about group dynamics. I don’t know where to start though. Can you please point me in the right direction? Thank you

    By Vikki Dawson on Sep 12, 2012

  26. Hi Vikki, Could your son could be feeling insecure, therefore choosing to withdraw rather than ‘compete’ when he is in a larger group and then drawing attention to himself with his behaviour to gain reassurance? If so, he will benefit from building up his self esteem – focussing on all his positive qualities. Does he play any team or group sports? if so, is he OK within a team when all on the same side? I don’t know whether you have discussed your concerns with his teacher, but s/he will know how he is at school within groups and whether there is any one to one help available that he may benefit from. Also have a look at the page on lack of self confidence on this site if you haven’t already.

    By Sue Twort on Sep 19, 2012

  27. Hi, recently my 7 year old daughter keeps complaining of headaches and tummy aches and in school asks to be taken to the sick bay but I could tell she was fine. She finally opened up and told me she had no best friends in class. She had friends but they weren’t her very best of friends. From young, she has always been a really sociable child and adapts well to all situations. I am shocked that she tries to escape from class and hides in the sick bay. Is this a sign of her having low confidence? How do I explain to her that she can’t have best friends in everyone? She gets upset when her classmate takes away her music partner
    , leaving her all alone. She doesn’t like it that another snatches her books. She seem to think that when others do nasty things to her, they don’t like her. How do I tell her that she can’t make everyone like her??

    By Sabrina Chua on Jan 31, 2013

  28. Dear Sabrina

    You don’t say if your daughter is an only child but if this is the case then
    she may be more sensitive to unkindness from other children than a girl with
    siblings who is used to fighting her corner.

    I think you need to stay calm about this and not show her that you are
    worried. Work out some strategies with her about what to do if someone is
    unkind (eg don’t let them see you are upset or angry otherwise they will do
    it again). Obviously any serious ill treatment from her classmates must be
    reported to the teacher but day-to-day squabbles are part of the classroom

    I would suggest getting her involved in out of school activities where she
    can meet other children outside of school such as dancing, the brownies etc.

    She seems to want to feel ‘special’ to someone and I am wondering if she
    might benefit from having a pet to love and care for.

    By Sue Twort on Feb 6, 2013

  29. Hi
    I’ve found it so helpful to read the comments. I have 12year old daughter who began secondary last September – I too feel like the wrong child comes home to me! During this time we also moved house to a property beset with problems, not least of which is an alcoholic living directly above who disturbs our home life at all hours. In an effort to keep her safe from this we have decamped to my parents home – they are elderly and my father has recently been diagnosed with Alzheimers. My daughter has been the apple of his eye and he is the only male family member in her life. She is so hurtful and rude to us all – sometimes physical and can be very spiteful. I cannot reason with her. She has made friends at school with a girl who, from my experience so far, seems to be a bad influence – my daughters schoolwork is suffering and the school are aware of the problems but have offered little in the way of advice. I am at my wits end as to how to communicate with her anymore – she won’t talk to me or anyone else in the family, she says ‘everyone is always on at me’ and she has become very unkind, verging on bullying behaviour, to her old friends from junior school. She is an intelligent girl, used to be bright and funny, but is now a stranger. I have tried to bring her up to know the right and wrong behaviour, and to show kindness and consideration but all these things seem to have been thrown out of the window. I dont know where to turn. We all live on eggshells at home, frightened to speak to her in case we say the wrong thing, worrying what mood she will come home/get up in, etc, etc. The situation with our home life is difficult but in unlikely to change any time soon.

    By Sharon on Mar 13, 2013

  30. Dear Sharon
    This sounds like an extremely hard situation for you and your daughter to cope with. I think the level of upheaval you have experienced in recent times will certainly have had a significant impact on your daughter, and this comes on top of a major change in her life moving from Primary to Secondary school. And indeed she is likely to be experiencing hormonal changes at this age too which can also be very unsettling. You don’t say what necessitated the original move, but living where a neighbour disturbs your peace and sleep so much that you have to move again demonstrates the level of distress you have both suffered.
    It sounds as if your daughter may well be experiencing a range of emotions she finds difficult to articulate to you and the family – and this is now finding an outlet in her angry and difficult behaviour. I am disappointed to hear that the school have not offered help, particularly as her school work is suffering. I think it would be good to make a face to face appointment with her Head of Year to discuss your concerns and ask whether the school has access to professional counselling support – they certainly should be able to offer help in some way. Another potential source of help is via your GP – although I have to say waiting lists for counselling via GPs are often frustratingly long.
    In the meanwhile I think you need to set clear boundaries for your daughter and her behaviour – clearly stating what is acceptable and what is not. Certainly put an immediate stop to any inappropriate physical expression of her anger towards you and your parents. If she sees that you are ‘in control’ of the situation she is much more likely to feel safe than if she feels that you are vulnerable or treading on eggshells around her – and this may in time help with communications between you. Don’t try to force her to talk or be ‘happy’ when she isn’t – but be ready to listen if she does open up.
    It may well be worth considering seeking some support for yourself at this time too if you haven’t already done so. For example, The Alzheimer’s Society offers a helpline number and an online forum for support.
    Best of luck in getting support for your daughter and yourself

    By Sue Twort on Mar 14, 2013

  31. My son is nearly 11 and had to change schools last October when we moved nearer to Dorchester as we were living in a rurally isolated area where there were no other children of his age. Although the village was only 2 miles from the schools and village where he went to school, we may as well have lived on the moon.
    My son has always been behind his peers socially although he is academically very bright. He finds making friends very difficult and has been through a whole gambit of emotions stating that ‘everybody hates him’ ‘nobody cares’; that he is being bullied and ‘everyone laughs at him’. He does make friends but allows these friendships to flag when he thinks the other boys are no longer friendly with him because they have other friends and belong to other social groups.
    he likes things to go his own way and gets very frustrated when children misbehave in class. He seems to overreact to their behaviour and doesn’t seem to accept that the teachers are able to deal with issues when they arise.
    We have begun to despair with this constant complaining and blaming of everyone else. We have run out of strategies with how to support him.
    My son has attended nurture groups and conversation groups at school but he is also very reluctant to work with the individuals who he feels are ‘the bullies’. We are worried that he is in danger of isolating himself even though we now live in an urban neighbourhood. he can also go to the opposite extreem and ‘smother’ other children who try to befreind him. Any help would be much appreciated.

    By Toni on Apr 29, 2014

  32. You don’t say if your son has any siblings but I am assuming not. If this is the case I’m wondering if he has any other children in his life who are ‘family’. What comes across is that he doesn’t relate to other children and perhaps he identifies more with adults (what suggests this is his annoyance with children who misbehave in class, which is unusual for his age).

    When he comes home from school full of complaints about others, ask him to tell you what good things happened that day. The aim is to give him attention for good news, not bad. Give him lots of praise for bring positive, for telling you about people he likes etc. Ask his teacher about a reward chart to be kept in class for when he shares with others, joins in or is kind to someone.

    See if you can get him involved in activities, clubs or organisations for young boys that are not school based to broaden his outlook and his friendship group. You want him to enjoy being 11.

    By Sue Twort on May 7, 2014

  33. My 7 year old has had a lovely friend for about a year since she moved to our village. They are in the same year group at school although the girl is one of the okdest and my daughter one of the youngest. Both girls and very bright and sweet. However, this friend, when she sees a girl from the school who is in the year group above, then just ‘dumps’ my daughter, ignoring her completely, to speak to the other girl. If I ask her (really nicely) to please include my daughter,she looks at me and then looks away still ignoring her. It is heartbreaking to watch. Is this normal behaviour or should I speak to the girl’s Mum (who is a friend but I wouldn’t want to upset her by suggesting that her child has poor social skills – this child does seem to get tunnel visioned and only is able to play with one child at a time despite having a younger sibling). Some mornings she won’t even speak to my daughter, won’t even say good morning, but just bulldozes in and steals away any conversation that my daughter was having with the older girl. All the girls are lovely. My daughter has a younger brother and is very caring. Thanks for advice. There are other girls in her class but she adores this girl who keeps dumping her when it suits her. Occasionally it will be for another child in the class who suddenly is of interest to her. I’d like to see my daughter included and not rejected. What can she or I do? Thanks

    By Lise on Apr 18, 2016

  34. Dear Lise
    I am sorry your daughter is going through a painful experience with this ‘friend’ and it must be painful for you to watch. Girls of this age can be very cruel to each other but I honestly don’t think that having a word with her Mum will sort out the problem.
    I suggest that you encourage your daughter to broaden her friendship group so that she isn’t dependent on this girl’s attention. Ask her to think of some other children in the class that she likes and perhaps you could invite one or two of them over for tea or take them swimming or suchlike.
    The girl who switches her attention on and off is actually enjoying a lot of power over your daughter and the best thing she could do is to show this girl that she is not reliant on her and has other friends that she likes. It is a very hard lesson to learn but their relationship will be much healthier if it is based on equality rather than this fear of rejection.
    I hope this helps.
    Jill Knowles

    By Sue Twort on Apr 29, 2016

  35. My 7 year old daughter had a lovely friendship with a girl at school. However for the last few months, her ‘friend’ no longer wants to play with my daughter and has dumped her for another girl who she’s now formed a close friendship with. Ordinarily I would have let them resolve their own issues but this girl has been quite bossy and unkind which surprises me that children at this age can behave this way. My daughter has been told that everyone in the class can play in their group except her, that she’s not allowed to sit next to her at break time, etc. My daughter has been very upset about the loss of her friend and longs for her to say something nice to her during the week. I’ve tried to help but I’m not sure if I’m doing or saying the right things. In one of your earlier posts dated 12 January 2012, you mentioned a couple of attachments which could possibly help which included ‘Lola says don’t be sad’ and ‘Girl Talk’ which I was hoping you could repost. Any advice is truly appreciated.

    By Suzan on May 26, 2016

  36. Dear Suzan
    Thank you for your email. The problem your daughter is experiencing is what we call ‘The Queen Bee Syndrome.’. One girl sets herself as the Queen Bee and is surrounded by a group of Followers who have to do why she decides such as who can and who can’t be in her friendship group. This is very painful for anyone who is ostracised by the ‘In Crowd’ and can result in anxiety, loss of self esteem and even school refusal.
    What this girl is doing is a form of bullying so your first port of call must be the school. Start with the class teacher and if this doesn’t work go to the Headteacher. This behaviour cannot be allowed to continue.
    Give your daughter lots of cuddles and compliments. Talk over with her who else she might like to play with other than these mean children. There must be other children looking for playmates in the class. Make sure that she realises that none of this is her fault and that some people ‘s behaviour is unkind. Say that the other girl who is the loser because she is missing out on a lovely friend by being so horrible.
    Good luck.
    Jill Knowles

    By Sue Twort on Jun 4, 2016

  37. My daughter is 11 and in P7. She is a happy, friendly albeit shy girl who other than the odd fall out has never had any real friendship issues. She has 3 main friends both in and out of school. Two of them she has known since nursery lets call them girl A & C the third, girl B, she met at school. I am very friendly with the mother of girl A and reasonably friendly with the mothers of girl C and will chat in passing to the mother of girl B. This summer in agreement with the other mums we allowed them more freedom such as going to the local swing park, shop or cafe and of course being allowed to go in for each other. This is where the dynamics started to change because previously girl A & B didn’t get to play together in fact they never bothered much with each other before. However they quickly became firm friends and girl C as is her nature hangs on to the coattails of the in-crowd. She has in my daughters opinion always had issues with my daughters friendship with the other 2 and suspect that much of the sneering she’s doing in my daughters direction is because she is now where she wants to be and my daughter is out. As a shy girl my daughters natural reaction in a situation of conflict is to take herself out of the situation by walking away and since school has started back she has gone from feeling occasionally slightly excluded, some of which may have been of her own doing (although shy she has quite strong opinions and as an only child she can find it hard to deal with her ideas or suggestions being rejected and so she backs off) to being totally ignored both in and our of school to the point where they are not even asking if she’s walking home or including her in any after school play. Initially I encouraged her to try and not walk away, pick your battles, go with the flow a bit more and include yourself don’t wait for an invitation as it prob wont come. So on Monday she build herself up and approached them about walking home and going out after school. She said that they didn’t even raise their eyes to look at her, they just shrugged their shoulders and walked on leaving her standing there. So she’s now changed tact, I’ve suggested that to let her feel more in control maybe she should back off for a while and go and play with the other girls (she’s quite friendly with most of them as there aren’t that many girls in her year) and so if it is a power thing which i’m sure it is for girl C (not sure about the other 2) then she’ll see that it’s not bothering her and hopefully things will get a little easier even if she’s not included back in. My heart is breaking for her because she is always very aware of treating people fairly and not excluding and now she finds she’s the one being excluded. Any advise would be greatly appreciated. I was also thinking in speaking quietly to the Dpt head (not mentioning names but just an overview) as she was her teacher twice and knows her well.

    By Marie on Sep 7, 2016

  38. Thanks for your email. The problem your daughter is experiencing is very common in this age group when some girls form ‘In crowds’ and seem to get pleasure from ostracising others and causing hurt and embarrassment. The best thing your daughter can do is to show these girls that she is not bothered by their exclusion and that she is happy to spend time with other girls who are nice to her. If they think she is upset they will do it more. It’s a power thing. If she shows them they don’t have the power to upset her they are likely to stop doing it (although they might look for another victim).
    Be positive with your child and try not to let her see you are affected by this. Encourage her to widen her friendship group and find some people who enjoy her company and make her feel good about herself. Get her to come up with some ideas about who she might make friendly overtures towards. Ask her about other people in the school that she likes, what she likes about them etc.
    Good luck.

    By Jill Knowles on Sep 12, 2016

  39. Hi Sue

    My son is 11 – just stared secondary school. During the last 2 years of primary school he had friendship issues concerning his closest friend. This friend lives close-by, is an only child and so when at a loose end outside of school is happy to call on and spend time with my son – at these times he couldn’t be a better friend. But when he’s with others (usually at school) he sometimes gives my son the cold shoulder, has left him out of games and says and does things to belittle my son in front of others.

    When they realised they were in the same tutor group, my son was thrilled. However, 3 days in to the term, my son has complained of the same things happening – not waiting for him as agreed, saving a space on the bus for 2 other friends leaving no space for my son, forcing him to go on the upper deck alone etc.

    I have tried to encourage my son to establish other friendships and suggested that his friend seems to prefer to have a number of friends rather than 1 special friend etc. But it’s hard to see him hurting. It doesn’t help that we are very good friends with this boy’s parents, even holidaying with them earlier this year. I don’t want to see my son being ‘used’ in this way. Any help would be very welcome.

    By Jane on Sep 8, 2016

  40. Dear Jane
    I’m sorry to hear about the unkindness being doled out to your son by someone who is supposed to be his closest friend, which must be very difficult for both of you. It’s good that he feels able to confide in you. It would helpful if you could discuss ways in which he could deal with being ostracised, how he could avoid being hurt and humiliated. His dependency on this boy is not doing him any good at all. The boy isn’t going to change but your son can change the way he reacts towards him, see if he can come up with some ideas.

    It is a form of bullying, because this boy is exerting his power, nice one minute, nasty the next. This is very damaging for your son’s confidence and self esteem and I feel he deserves better.

    As you suggest, I would definitely encourage him to seek out other boys to be his friend,especially now he has started a new school and there will be new people to get to know. Perhaps he could be involved in after school activities without this boy, join groups,clubs that will expand his network of friends and acquaintances.
    Give him lots of praise and encouragement every time he shows that he is moving away from this unhealthy friendship.
    I understand it is difficult as you are friends with the boy’s parents but your own son’s wellbeing is paramount at this crucial stage in his development. They don’t have to be enemies but at the moment their ‘friendship’ is based on persecutor/victim roles which is not good.
    Kind Regards

    By Sue Twort on Sep 11, 2016

  41. my son is in a group of 3 one other boy and a girl. The girl is very bossy and often he comes home saying something has happened between them. It is all a bit petty and if they were isolated incidents I would just put it down to playground squabbles but it is very regular. It ranges from telling him off for things, getting him to give her some money, his sandwich, who he can play with…..I have witnessed her spitting in his face once a while ago and also shouting a aggressively after he ran up to greet her. Apart from the spitting and shouting I wonder if he is being too sensitive or if there is more going on than he lets on.
    Their class is extremely small – 10. I am trying to get him to understand the meaning of a good friendship and not to play. Am I making a problem out of nothing or should i chat to the school

    By susan on Nov 8, 2016

  42. Dear Susan
    Thank you for your question on our Childlight website. We tried to respond to your email address so you would have this sooner, but unfortunately it came back undelivered. In my opinion the behaviour of this girl towards your son is totally unacceptable and is too much for him to deal with on his own. Spitting at him, demanding money, shouting at him etc is every bad for his self esteem, especially in a small class where it is difficult for him to avoid her.
    I would go straight to the school and discuss her bullying (which it is) and ask them what they intend to do to protect your son from this harassment. A record of her misdemeanours needs to be kept with times and dates so that you can involve her parents as and when necessary.
    Good luck
    Jill Knowles

    By Jill Knowles on Nov 21, 2016

  43. Hello Jill

    Could you help me help my nearly 7-year old son?

    He has not really had a best friend in school for the past two years, but this year he is getting on very well with a girl in his class. Although they play together at school, they also like to play with their same-sex friends, although he has not had a particular playmate from the boys till this term.

    In January, he become friends with a boy he likes to play with — but not exclusively. The boy is overwhelming my son, being overly controlling in play and games, and he will not let him play with anyone else as he follows him while ‘complaining all the time’ (my son’s words) and will not let him be.

    Today my son came home in a turmoil, very upset, because he had wanted to play with his female friend but could not because his male friend made it impossible. So he spent his break sitting alone instead.

    He does not want to be ‘mean’ to this boy or break their friendship, but he cannot establish boundaries. How can he tell his male friend that he also wants to spend time apart from him sometimes, in a way that will make the other boy respect this? He has told him repeatedly that he wants to play with someone else for a while, but this alone is not working.

    I don’t know what advice to give him: he does not like conflict, and I know he wants to remain friends with this boy, but he also badly needs to make his own terms for their friendship. How can I help him do this on his own at school?

    Thanks for your time

    By Joanna on Feb 8, 2017

  44. Dear Joanna

    Thanks for your enquiry – I replied to you by email at the time, but just it posting it on the site now. This seems a very complex situation for a boy of nearly seven to deal with and I suggest you have a chat with the school. The class teacher will know the boy who is being controlling towards your son and would be in an ideal position to observe what is actually going on. Playground assistants could also be involved, particularly if they see that the boy is being too possessive and preventing your boy from enjoying his play time.
    Be sympathetic and encouraging in the meantime. Tell him that sitting alone in the classroom whilst he should be out playing must not happen again. Ask him if there is any adult that he could approach and ask for help from in future.
    Being mean or aggressive obviously isn’t the answer but being assertive is.
    Practise an assertive game with him:

    1. Stand at opposite ends of the room facing each other. Ask him to walk towards you. When he gets close turn away and say ‘Stop’ very softly. See how close he gets.

    2. Ask him to walk towards you again. This time as he gets fairly close hold both arms out, hands upwards, and say STOP! loudly. Notice how quickly he stops this time.

    3. Give him a turn at turning away and saying ‘Stop’ quietly. Walk very close to him.

    4. Give him a turn at shouting STOP! and holding his arms out. As soon as he does stop dead.

    Discuss with him how it felt being stopped both ways. Point out how much quicker people stop when told to do so assertively.

    Doing this will raise his self esteem and show him how to take control of situations.

    Hope you get this sorted.
    Best wishes

    By Jill Knowles on Apr 29, 2017

  45. I have two daughters 18 months apart. My eldest is in first year of secondary school. They went to a small primary school and had two close friends a boy and a girl. The girl moved abroad when they were in primary 3 and the boy now has other interests. She became friends with another girl who isn’t who I would choose for her, but it was a very small school. We thought she would make lots of new friends at secondary, but this hasn’t been the case and mostly hangs around with this one girl, who leaves her on her own ant lunch time to go off with others. My daughter was little confidence with her peers and although goes to several activities, has not made friends there either. She now thinks she is weird and that people don’t like her…. I’m so worried now about her self esteem

    By Tina on Apr 25, 2017

  46. Dear Tina
    Thank you for your message. I am sorry to hear that your daughter is going through a difficult time.
    Adolescence is very hard for a sensitive child but secondary schools should have strategies in place for youngsters with self esteem or friendship issues.
    I would contact her form tutor, pastoral head or whoever is responsible for her well being in school and ask if you can come and talk to them about your concerns. It maybe that they have access to a counsellor, which is probably the best way forward in this instance.
    Kind regards


    By Jill Knowles on Apr 29, 2017

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