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My 10-year-old daughter complains constantly of loneliness and boredom

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Dear Life Coach,

My 10-year-old daughter is an only child. She complains constantly that she has no friends at school (or anywhere else) and that the children in her class are unkind to her and exclude her. They also criticize her lunch (which I pack on a daily basis), because it looks different from theirs. (They usually buy stuff from the vendors). She mopes around the house and is very unhappy. In the past I have planned play dates with her peers, but according to her, they only talk about their other friends, instead of having fun with her.{{more}} My daughter used to be so happy, but lately she looks dull and has lost interest in things that she once enjoyed, such as singing and dancing. I am worried about her. She tells me that she is constantly feeling lonely and bored. I am afraid that this might spill over into her teen years and that she might end up straying because she is looking for excitement. I feel as if I have failed her by not being able to provide her with a permanent playmate or with the right social environment in which she is able thrive.

Failed Mom (FM)

Dear FM,

I am sorry to learn that your daugher is having such a hard time at school and in the friendship domain.

Your Situation:

A number of factors are at work here: developmental stage, personality type, temperament, lack of social skills, lack of assertiveness, and potential depression, among others. These I will address briefly.

Developmental Stage

According to one developmental theorist, your daughter is in the middle to late childhood stage of her development. During this stage, friendship plays an important role in a child’s development: in addition to teaching a child how to communicate and interact with other individuals, friendships serve to boost a child’s self-esteem and sense of well-being.

Personality Type

Our personality is our unique long-term pattern of thinking, emotion, and behaviour. One theory suggests that each person has one of two personality types. So, we are either Introvert: shy, reserved, self-centered and focused inward, or extrovert: bold, outgoing and focused outward. It seems as if your daughter may be more of an introvert, and as such, would find it more difficult to communicate with others in a social setting.

Temperament

Our temperament is the hereditary aspects of our personality, including sensitivity, moods, irritability, and distractibility. Again your daugher appears to be more on the sensitive side and as such is likely to be more greatly impacted by negative remarks or gestures than less sensitive children.

Lack of Assertiveness/Social Skills

Assertiveness refers to an individual being empowered enough to stand up for himself or herself when being bullied, or otherwise treated unfairly by others. It strikes a balance between being passive or aggressive. Social skills refer to one’s ability to successfully navigate through multiple social interactions on a daily basis.

Depression

Depression is a condition in which an individual experiences unhappiness for a prolonged period of time. Some of the symptoms include boredom, loss of interest, and feelings of demoralization.

What to Do

Extra-curricular Activities

Getting your daughter involved in extra-curricular activities such as drama, sports or music will expose her to new potential friendships, in addition to those at school.

Plan Play Dates

Continue to plan play dates for your daughter, involving children from your church or neighbourhood, focused on semi-structured activities such as baking cookies or making jewelry, since children in this age group enjoy learning by doing. This will reduce the amount of talk about other friends.

Talk with Teacher

Visit your daughter’s school and talk with her teacher about about her adjustment. Find out if the teacher is aware of your daughter’s difficulties. Request an intervention, eg. specifically including her in activities or letting her sit beside children who are good-natured and naturally friendly.

Plan Family Times

Plan family times with your daughter and the rest of the family. Play games, e.g. cards or dominoes. Also invite the extended family over, or visit with them to help your daughter develop a relationship with younger and older family members.

Teach your Child Life Skills

Shy, reserved and sensitive children can benefit immensely from life skills training: social skills, assertiveness skills, stress reduction, perspective taking and so on. If you lack the skills to do so, you may read ‘how to’ books, talk to knowledgeable individuals, or have her see a counsellor with this expertise.

Affirm your Daughter

Let your daughter know that her personality and temperament are fine, but she needs to learn to stand up for herself in life, so that she will not be trampled on by others.

Make Lunch Reasonable

While it is important to pack a healthy lunch, try not to make your daughter stand out too much as being different. Seek to strike a balance in the middle; maybe on some days, she could buy some items as other children do, e.g. a drink or a snack. While she is unique in her own way, there must be some similarity with other children in order to form friendships and be accepted within the peer group, which is important for healthy development.

FM, as parents we blame ourselves when our children are not happy, because we are responsible to ensure their welbeing in every sphere of life. Hopefully with time and training your daughter will be able to stand up for herself.

Life Coach

DYNACII

Need help with relationship and other problems? Ask DYNACII’s Life Coach. Email your questions to dynacii@gmail.com. To Chat with the Life Coach, visit: http://www.dynacinternational.com. Dynamic Action Center International Inc. (DYNACII) a non-governmental organization committed to social and spiritual empowerment.

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