As your daughter moves into middle school and class invites become more exclusive friend group invites, making and keeping friends become more difficult. Teenagers girls love to gossip about boys and clothes and become competitive about appearance and achievement to the point where it can be intimidating to try to connect. Our instinct when our middle school daughter tells us she has no friends is to reassure her that friend groups change and that she will find her people when she gets older, but it doesn’t change how alone she may feel at school.
Difficulty Making Friends
School can be overwhelming without the support of close friends and your daughter may come home to lock herself in her room, claiming to be doing homework. Isolating is a way to protect oneself from getting hurt in relationships, but can also enable feeling sorry for oneself and ruminating in hopeless thoughts about being alone. Making friends doesn’t necessarily get easier over time, although you gain more control over your social environments and the people you choose to surround yourself with.
Many self-identified loners are more likely to cling to unhealthy relationships or look to others for validation, even if it does not serve them. Middle school is a particularly challenging environment to navigate on one’s own, especially when it comes to making friends; however, the goal of middle school is to build self-awareness and learn how to communicate appropriately. Making friends involves breaking out of your comfort zone and owning who are.
Common struggles with maintaining relationships in middle school include:
- Bullying and Rejection
- Being the victim of gossip and rumors
- Clique-ish-ness of social groups
- Social anxiety
- Managing depression and feelings of hopelessness
- Low self-esteem
- Being quiet or introverted
- Peer pressure to conform or try risky things
- Trouble finding shared interests
- Excessive talking or sharing personal information
- Clashing personality types
- Unhealthy attachment styles
- Trouble understanding nonverbal social cues
- Reliance on technology and preferring online friends
- Difficulty exploring one’s own identity and figuring out who they are and what they want for themselves in relationships
Ways to Build Relationship Skills:
Participating in after-school activities where she may meet other like-minded people and build confidence around a hobby or talent.
Identifying Personal Values that shape the kind of person and friend she wants to be. Deciding not to compromise what she values for people whose values are not aligned and looking for people with similar experiences and goals for support.
Considering what makes a good friend and what healthy relationships look like. This may involve understanding that it is possible to have different kinds of friends to meet different needs without needing to rely on a single person. It may help her to recognize when a relationship is unhealthy or unsupportive.
Building social awareness and mindfulness skills to consider other people’s experiences and look for ways to connect.
Learning how to be Compassionate in relationships with herself and others.
Asheville Academy is a therapeutic boarding school for girls ages 10-14. Our students commonly struggle with anxiety, depression, ADHD, learning differences, and attachment issues. Many of our students have struggled with making positive friends in school and are working on building appropriate social skills and communication skills. We are a relationship-based program that focuses on building meaningful face-to-face connections through teamwork, group therapy, experiential activities, and small classrooms. We aim to help students that have dealt with bullying, abandonment, and rejection in relationships change the narratives they’ve internalized about their self-worth and potential for success.