Wednesday, 25 April 2018

The Pressure For Friendship On A 6 Year Old

Last night my 6 year old was an absolute horror. From the moment we got back from school she was rude and constantly trying to antagonise her little sister and me. We had pushing, we had shouting, we had constant ignoring of our requests to leave us alone. Once upon a time this was fairly normal behaviour for her, but it’s fortunately become much rarer. Eventually I realised what was going on, but not before getting annoyed and shouting.

A close up of 3 girls standing side by side holding hands


My daughter was angry, upset and confused. She has never been very good at verbalising her emotions so they often come out as negative behaviours. Some how I had forgotten and instead of encouraging her to talk to me, I got angry with her. 

When I eventually sat her down and asked her if something had happened at school she slowly opened up. She shared how she was upset because she feels she has no friends, there is no one at school she really likes and she has no one to play with. When she tries to play with people they want her to be something she doesn’t want to be, like a werewolf or a baddie.

This isn’t a new worry for her. For the last 3 years she has struggled to find anyone she really bonds with. The children she likes often aren’t interested in her, and the ones who are she isn’t interested in. It’s also a bit of an exaggeration as I know there are plenty of children she likes, she just had a bad day. 

According to teachers she is popular and has lots of friends, but there seems to be an expectation that children should have a “best friend”. In the Easter holidays M was asked twice in two days “Who is your best friend?”. It’s an innocent enough question and I wouldn’t have thought much of it if it wasn’t for the silence that followed each time it was asked. Each time I cringed and hurt for my daughter. 

The more the question is asked the more I wonder if there is something wrong, at 6 years old should M have a really good friend? Worse still I can see M wondering the same thing.

3 young girls in Frozen style dresses walking along holding hands and talking

M changes her mind frequently about her favourite food, song, toy and even colour because the truth is she loves lots of things. What appeals to her most at any particular moment depends on her mood. That seems normal and healthy to me so why is it expected that she should have a favourite friend?

I don’t think there has been a point in my life when I have had a "best friend". In the later years of primary school there was a group of 3 of us often together. In secondary school and University my friendships changed over the years and I was friends with lots of different groups of people at once. Did that make me popular? Or someone who didn’t really fit in anywhere? 

As an adult I struggle to make friends. I have some close friends and there are a huge number of people I chat to, but do I have a best friend? Do I have someone who I want to talk to every day and have to catch up with in person regularly, someone who wants to talk to me all the time? I guess I do: G. My partner is my "best" friend. He is the person I normally turn to when I am sad, who I vent at when I am angry and who I want to have a giggle with when I see something amusing. I love having a special person in my life, but I don’t really want my daughter to be spending the holidays missing a friend and needing to talk to them all the time. It’s lovely to have that bond, but at age 6 does she really need that level of intensity? Having lots of friends should be a great part of childhood, but instead she feels lonely and left out. I wonder how much of that is because of how others have made her feel?

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2 comments

  1. I could have written this post myself. My daughter is 7 and nearly every day there have been fall outs with other children and her best friend changes from day to day because of this. I think with my daughter and her group of friends the issue is that they don't seem to be able to play as a group. It always seems to be one to one which causes them to change 'best friends' all the time. I hope that this is just a stage that will change. I always reassure her that they are still her friends and they still like her. It's hard work!

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    1. It is good to know my daughter isn't alone and I am so glad I'm not at school any more

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