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Friendships for Fifth Grader
Q: My fifth-grade daughter is an only child, but she is very content to be at home with only her parents, her pets, and her TV. Although involved in extracurricular activities with other children her age several days a week, when she is free she seldom asks to have a friend over and, if she does have one, it is usually at my suggestion. She has friends at school, but none of them seem to be very strong, deep friendships. Frankly, she seems ambivalent about friends, which concerns me. She has a lot of self-confidence, knows her strengths, and is very realistic and self-assured. I mentioned this to her teacher, but she only confirmed what I already knew -- that she has buddies at school, but not really good friends. She seems uninterested in talking on the phone or emailing, unlike many girls her age. It seems that as an only child, she would be starving for a really close girlfriend. Should I be concerned?
A: It sounds like your daughter is content with her friendship situation and doesn't feel that she is missing anything. Continue to talk with her about the issue from time to time to make sure that she still feels this way, but don't push her into something that doesn't fit. Make sure your daughter knows that you're willing to help by asking her friends over or helping her set up activities, but wait for her to express interest. If your daughter had no friends at school or anywhere else you might be concerned, but it sounds like she is doing okay in that department.
If you talk with the parents of other fifth-grade girls in your daughter's class, you will probably find that the friendships of all have changed this year. Fifth grade is a tough year, with many girls approaching puberty and feeling the first yearnings for independence. Often girls who have been close friends since kindergarten suddenly don't want to be friends with one another in fifth grade.
You can always talk with the school counselor if you continue to be concerned about your daughter's lack of friendships. He or she may be able to give your daughter some individual time or include her in a small group on making and keeping friends.
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Barbara Potts has worked as an elementary school counselor for many years. She has a BA in psychology from Wake Forest University, and an M.Ed. in Guidance and Counseling from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.