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Feeling Left Out

Elementary School Expert Advice from Barbara Potts

Q: My ten-year-old daughter feels like the third wheel among her friends. She's only been at her school for a year so she still feels somewhat new. How can I help her self esteem? She has several groups of "two-somes" that she bounces back and forth between, but she is always left out when it comes to pairing up for something. Is there any help I can offer? I remember having friend troubles at that age, but I always had that one special friend who was there for me.

A: It's always difficult for friends at school when there is an odd number of children. Talk with the school counselor and with your daughter's teacher -- they could plan some activities for the class on being friends and on making sure that no one is left out. The teacher can help steer children together at lunchtime and at recess as well. Suggest that if a new student (especially a girl) comes to the class, your daughter could be paired with him or her to be a buddy and help that child feel welcome.

Make sure that your daughter has opportunities to make friends away from school as well. Joining a soccer team, a Girl Scout troop, or a church group can help her have friends who would be hers alone.

Fifth grade is a tough year for friendships, especially for girls. As they approach puberty, fifth grade girls go through lots of hormonal changes and experiment with independence; girls who have been close friends for years suddenly don't want to be around each other anymore. It sounds like your daughter may be seen as the friend who will always be there when others are unhappy with each other.

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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.

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