THE BLOG
10/27/2010 02:47 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

My teenage daughter feels like an outcast: What should I do?

The effects of bullying can be long-lasting

QUESTION

Dear Irene,

My daughter is 14-years-old. She is very bright and is in the top 1/3 in all her classes. She is also involved in a music group, does drama, teaches music to younger children, sports, dancing and ballet---a general all-rounder. However I worry as she has no close friends and she feels very much an outcast at school.

I have discussed this with her to get a picture of how she gets on with others. She is very friendly and is well thought of by adults so I can't figure out what the problem is with peers. She has friends that she hangs out with occasionally but she always has to go to them or make the suggestion to meet up. No one ever comes looking for her. She is very conscious of everyone having a clique or a close friend and does not want to impose herself on others.

Last weekend she suggested a sleepover to two girls who are involved in her drama and music group and are also in her class but they said they weren't free. The following day, one of them asked the other to have a sleepover at her house that weekend in front of my daughter. It is breaking my heart to see her so sad.

I really hoped that when she went to high school friendships would not be a problem. She was bullied for four years in her primary school and though there were only 6 girls in her class back then, she did not have any close friendships there either, even though they all (including the girl who bullied her) came to her birthday parties and sleepovers.

I am at a loss as to how to help her through this, as I feel by bringing up the subject I am reminding her of her lack of friends. I would really appreciate any advice you can give me.

Regards
Tricia

ANSWER

Dear Tricia,

You mentioned that your daughter was bullied for four years in primary school. One possibility is that the abuse she experienced has left a lingering emotional scar. It's common for kids who are bullied to become fearful and anxious. It may have lowered your daughter's self-esteem and made her hesitant in her relationships with other teens.

While your daughter seems to be otherwise well-adjusted, you are reporting a history of difficult relationships with friends that has been persistent and ongoing for many years. On that basis, my sense is that she might benefit from some focused short-term counseling to better evaluate and define the specific problems she is having and give her the tools she needs to foster healthy friendships. This can help her get over her hurt and move forward. In addition, it will help allay your anxiety because you'll have someone else providing support for you.

I understand how badly you feel. Adolescent girls can be very brutal and they may be playing on your daughter's anxieties. At a relaxed time, not during a crisis, sit down with her and ask her what she thinks is going on. Listen and be supportive. I suspect she is aware of her problems and will be open to the idea of speaking with a trained professional.

Hope this helps.

My best, Irene

Other posts on The Friendship Blog about Teen Friendships:


The Bad Friend: What's a Mom to Do?


Girl Talk: Too Much of a Good Thing?


Middle School Frenemies: Why are Girls so Mean?

Can this teen friendship be saved?