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A mom worries that her teenage daughter who only has friends outside of school

Published: November 16, 2015 | By | 3 Replies Continue Reading
An excellent figure skater with friends outside of school, the 16-year-old daughter is reluctant to make friends at school.



I am concerned about my 16-year-old daughter. She is unable to make or keep friends at her school. She is a high level competitive figure skater who has big goals in her sport. She skates seven days a week at a rink one-hour away from where we live.

She has been very successful with her skating, however, I also think it is a way for her to escape from her problems with friendships in school. She gets home from skating on weekends and has nothing to do. Nobody calls her and she feels sad and frustrated, yet, she doesn’t want to work at it either.

She did have a rough elementary school experience. She was held back in first grade because she seemed to have difficulty with focus and her grades were low. Immediately, doctors thought ADD but actually, two years later, we learned that it was not ADD, she was anxious. Girls would not accept her, and she was excluded and a victim of strong bullying. I do feel that this experience has impacted her negatively.

Lately, she has had paid little attention to her appearance. She wants to wear the same things over and over. She doesn’t want to do anything with her hair other than a ponytail.

She is a sophomore in high school and is so disconnected. Her grades are above average. It breaks my heart because when she has a competition, she is so happy, confident (still nervous), and looks beautiful. She is respected by her skating peers and does have friends there. I wish her classmates knew what an amazing, talented, kind, thoughtful, person she is. Teachers love her.

I really don’t think her teachers or anyone at the school realizes that she is just suffering silently.

Signed, Concerned Mom


Dear Concerned Mom,

A few things jumped out at me when I read your letter. First, your daughter has friends at figure skating and spends a considerable amount of time at the rink. It sounds like she fits in there and possesses the necessary social skills to build and maintain friendships. She is comfortable with her “people.” Building on positives and success is usually the best way to improve happiness. Does she ever plan activities with her skating friends, such as sleepovers or trips to the mall?

It’s quite possible that your daughter doesn’t mesh well with her classmates because of the time and energy she spends on her sport. Kids who dance competitively or spend a large percentage of their time on an outside activity or sport tend to make friends primarily who are outside of school. If your daughter can build her confidence around having friends through skating, she may hold her head a bit higher at school and project a more confident, friendlier persona.

The third part of your letter, which concerned me (and you) is her sudden lack of interest in her appearance and wearing the same clothes. This could be a symptom of depression, a medical condition that is very treatable, especially since her symptoms aren’t present during competition weekends. Given your concerns, taking her to the pediatrician to be screened, especially with her history of anxiety, is probably a good idea.

Lastly, I wondered whether your daughter shares your concerns about her friendships. Why does she lack any initiative to work at socializing at school? Possibilities might be that she assumes rejection, feels badly about herself, lacks interest in socializing or some combination of these factors. Knowing her thoughts will help you help her, if indeed she wants your assistance.

In the meantime, I would encourage weekend activities with skating friends and see how she responds. From your letter, I think things will work out focusing on expanding her positive relationships.

Good luck.

Signed, *Amy Feld

*Amy Feld, PhD, MSW has trained and worked as a child psychologist.

Disclaimer: Nothing in this or any other post is intended to substitute for medical, psychiatric or clinical diagnosis/treatment. Rather, all posts are written as the type of advice that one friend might give to another.

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Category: Teen friendships

Comments (3)

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  1. Mrs. Chen says:

    Hi Concerned mom,
    Sorry about your daughter’s situation. She is depressed right now and hopefully you have gotten her some professional help.

    I think your daughter needs the equivalent of figure skating for her school life. Sounds like she is only comfortable socially when she is in a setting where the main event is something she is really good at. My 15-yo is a competitive swimmer and one of her friends is like your daughter — well-liked by her teammates but doesn’t have many friends at school.

    Since she is a figure skater, maybe she can consider trying out for the school dance company? Gymnastics team? cheer squad? high jump on track team? fencing team? And how about the school play? Don’t rule is out right away. She is musical and has great control of her body, so this is something that she could get good at very quickly. She has to get over her shyness but many great actors are incredibly shy in real life. But they know they are playing someone else on stage. Besides, she is already a performer so she should be used to the spotlight.

    Try to find something you know she could get good at in relatively short order. And if you can afford it, get her private lessons to help her reach a level of competence that is comfortable for her.

    Best of luck to you both.

  2. CarlaW says:

    I was always shy when in high school. I sought out others who also didn’t feel comfortable in the company of others. I never wanted to push for a friendship I wasn’t wanted in. I would seek another who sat alone. She would make my attempts to try a simple conversation. Sometimes I felt rejected. Perhaps she feared being turned away. Yet there I was knowing how she felt alone and I wanted the others to see us speaking and smiling. Eventually we chatted about our home life. Tho she was private, I opened up my own world for her to see mine. Talked about TV shows, pets, and growing up afraid to be rejected again. Marion was old-fashioned. Her ideal future was to become a NUN. What a truly lovely girl she was. So very down to earth and never had a bad thing to say about others because of her love of God. Together we made it through High School and she moved on.

    Concerned Mom, I think your daughter needs time. Time to realise everyone in this world is different. You want more for your daughter. Yet you can’t force her. You might be able to seek a conference with a couple of her teachers and ask ideas on how to proceed. One possible idea might be to ask a counselor to come and view her competition. If she could see how she changes when she is performing, she might be able to analyse the problem.
    Involve the School. You can request privacy. And they may well have ideas that can help. It’s a thought. An idea.

  3. Maddie says:

    The title makes no sense.

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