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Q: We homeschool our six-year-old daughter, a decision we made largely because she was academically gifted and, as former gifted students ourselves, we remembered all too well how miserable school had been for us. Our daughter is progressing wonderfully academically and participates in a variety of outside activities where she gets lots of "kid contact," but she is feeling very sad lately that she has been unable to find and keep any close friends. I suspect she has little in common with most of her age peers but still seems like "a little pest" to most of the older kids whose company she prefers. Do you have any suggestions about activities where she might have better luck? How I can help her to understand and cope with her situation?
A: Six is one of those in-between ages. My daughter -- now seven -- had a very difficult time with friendships last year. Part of it was my expectations. I longed for her to have that one friend who would be her "best buddy." It never happened. We came to realize that the "best friend" idea is a myth. At this age, girls need a variety of friends in their lives to satisfy different needs. As your daughter matures, she will seek out those who most share her interests, and stronger friendships will develop.
When you go to your different activities, keep your eyes open for girls around your daughter's age. When she plays well with another child, speak to the child's parent and ask about setting up a play date. Find a mutual interest -- art, dolls, rollerblading -- and encourage them in that direction. Check out homeschooling support groups in your area. Try different field trips or group activities for kids her age. Be prepared to drive. I network with other homeschoolers within a 45-mile radius. By meeting many families, your chances of finding appropriate playmates increase.
This phase will pass as your daughter matures and is accepted into a wider age-range group. In the meantime, don't give up trying to bring new friends into her life, but don't emphasize their absence either. Focus on all her special qualities, and enjoy your time together.
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Isabel Shaw is a freelance writer and homeschooling mom of 15 years. She and her husband Ray homeschool their two daughters, Jessica and Amanda. Besides being a contributor to FamilyEducation.com, Shaw has written for Home Education Magazine, The Link, Homeschooling Horizons Magazine, The Homeschool Gazette, and other publications.