Friends or frenemies

Nasty friends are no friends at all.
Nasty friends are no friends at all. 

Dear Kimberley,

My daughter is always going back for seconds when certain friends treat her badly. It breaks my heart when she tells me they run away from her at lunchtime and tell her to “Go Away!”. She is nine-years-old and I have heard from other mothers that this is normal for her age, but I think it’s damaging her self esteem and making her more aggressive at home. We used to have a relatively calm household, however, our daughter is now very emotional and erratic. I’d like to know if she’s bringing on these problems at school with her moods or if she’s the victim of bullying. To date, we haven’t talked to the school or the offending child’s parents. Do you recommend we do this or leave it up to the girls to sort out? Kimberley, we like your approach and would value your opinion. This has been going on for almost 2 years.

Sienna, Qld.

Dear Sienna,

It may be interesting to know the most popular age group for referrals relating to social issues is 6-9 years as this matches with your daughter’s experience. My suggestion is to ‘take action and be supportive’.

Children need to feel that the information they are sharing with you is being believed and that you are capable of helping to resolve the problem.

  • Keep your daughter involved to ensure she learns something from this process.
  • Encourage her to write a letter to her teacher or principal outlining what has happened and what she has done to fix the situation herself. She may wish to ask for advice about what to do next or perhaps you may all like to meet face-to-face to brainstorm ideas.  
  • If your daughter is feeling unsafe, she may not be interested in telling other people about the problem for fear of repercussions. If this is the case, I like to set a time frame for doing nothing and plan to move forward after a certain date. If there is no change, it’s likely your daughter will be relieved that help is on the way!

This is likely to set you in good stead for managing any other issues that arise as your daughter enters adolescence. Your daughter’s willingness to confide in you is an indication that she trusts you.

Children need to feel that the information they are sharing with you is being believed and that you are capable of helping to resolve the problem.

When she is speaking to you next, it may also be a good time to remind her of the House Rules such as, “Have respect for others” by being “Calm and Kind”. This may reduce the emotional fall-out after school hours.

Sienna, recommended resources for making communicating difficult issues easier are: The Face it Cards, I feel Bullied, How to Talk so Kids will Listen and How to be a Friend. Keep us updated with how you managed this situation.

Warm regards

Kimberley O’Brien

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Kimberley O'Brien is one of Australia's most trusted and recognized Child Psychologists with a knack for solving issues from the child's perspective. She is currently Principal Psychologist at the Quirky Kid Clinic in NSW.