*My daughter is struggling with making friends (she’s in middle school) and her mood about this is affecting our household. We have tried so many things, like after-school activities, hosting parties, encouraging sleepovers and so on. Nothing seems to work — she’s made no good friends from any of our efforts. She never has plans and her moping around the house is just too much for me sometimes, but she won’t talk to me about it either. We have two younger children who pick up on their big sister’s negativity. I know it’s just a matter of time before they are emulating it.*
*I really am working to understand her better, but I never had a problem socially and always had a strong group of girlfriends growing up. My husband was less successful socially, but his reaction to my worrying is to say it will make her stronger, like it did for him. Is there anything I can do to help her make friends?*
*— Trying Not to Helicopter*
Hold on a minute, Trying. I’m not sure I heard the part where Big Sister agrees with you that her “moping” is related to not having a strong group of girlfriends. Is that your story or hers? I can truly empathize with your situation. You find yourself predicting a dire future for your child, but I’m still not convinced that you aren’t simply catastrophizing the circumstance of having a preteen girl in your home.
The transition from elementary to middle school can be shocking. Kids change overnight, and the natural reaction to so many hormonal and developmental changes often is unexplainable “moping.” Her reluctance to talk to you about it is also fairly predictable, as is her likely refusal to let you and your “efforts” make friendships on her behalf. Part of being a preteen is starting to test the waters about befriending people your mom doesn’t like. Sound scary? I’m sorry, but that’s totally normal.
Please don’t read this as a warrant to ignore all of the changes you see before your eyes; I am not advocating that. But go slow. Keep your door open and recognize that you may be raising a “late(r) bloomer” — or, sound the alarm, an introvert! — who doesn’t want to have plans on a Friday night just yet. Your daughter may not take after you socially or otherwise, and that may be something to process on your end. (This is where you’ll need Husband’s support and assistance.) That’s not necessarily a sign that there’s anything wrong.
*Stacy Notaras Murphy is a licensed professional counselor in Georgetown. Visit her on the web at stacymurphyLPC.com. This column is meant for entertainment only and should not be considered a substitute for professional counseling. Send your confidential question to stacy@stacymurphyLPC.com.*