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After a bout with depression, a middle-schooler has friendship problems

Published: February 16, 2015 | Last Updated: February 16, 2015 By | 6 Replies Continue Reading
A worried mom asks how she can help build her daughter’s self-confidence.



My daughter had many friends in elementary school. Ours was the house everyone came to. But starting in grade 5, things changed. Now in grade 7, she feels she has no friends. No one invites her out, and she seems to no longer communicate with the kids she hung out with in elementary school.

She has been depressed and was a cutter for a time. She has been seeing a counselor for over a year, and is now on Lexapro for depression and anxiety. How can I help her feel more confident? How can I help her re-kindle the early friendships she had?

Signed, Worried Mom


Dear Worried Mom,

I’m so sorry your daughter is having so much difficulty. She is very fortunate to have a mom as attentive and proactive as you are for having gotten her the professional help she needed so quickly. I don’t say that lightly.

I’m not sure I’d steer your daughter toward rekindling old friendships, because girls change so much during puberty. Not only are their bodies and hormones figuring themselves out, but they are also developing more independent personalities. With this maturity, friendships often change due to no other reason than growing in different directions. Some girls are naturally more introverted or extroverted. Some prefer socializing in groups. Others prefer one on one.

Since your daughter is dealing with depression and anxiety, she’ll likely feel more confident with one or two friends in what feels like a safer environment. Maybe one of her old friends is a good fit for a sleepover, maybe someone new. Since you haven’t mentioned otherwise, she probably has friends or acquaintances she sits with at lunch. Maybe one of these girls would like to go to a movie or shopping on the weekend.

Does she participate in any sports or after school activities like Girl Scouts or dance class? Does your daughter like children? Little kids are great for the egos of adolescent girls. If you could arrange for her to “volunteer” at a daycare or after school reading to children once a week, her self-esteem would sky rocket with an almost guaranteed immediate fan club. If she’s too young to babysit, she might be fine as a “mother’s (or parents’) helper.”

Keep being a good listener. Sometimes that’s even more important than offering solutions. You seem like you’ve already put the pieces in place for your daughter to develop the skills she needs to cope with her situation. I believe in your daughter.

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: Child and adolescent friendships, MAKING FRIENDS

Comments (6)

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  1. Sherrie says:

    I would like to respond to this because I had extreme depression as a young teen, and the best friends for your daughter may or may not be her old friends. Some of my old friends treated me like I had a disease that they could catch. One friend treated me ok. So you could try having sleepovers to see which friends are mature enough to deal with this. It might even be better for her to go to a new school. I would certainly get her involved in clubs or activities with new people and caution her that she should not be open with them about her struggles unless she knows that are trustworthy. I found that out the hard way when a girl laughed at me and then repeated everything that I told her.
    A yoga class for young people, or hiking group, or volunteer work with a group would be great – since it gets you to think about other people who need help.
    My town has a therapeutic horse back riding camp that seeks volunteers.
    She will likely find that the best friends are other young people who have went through tough times, like her, and survived and became more empathetic towards others.

  2. Emma says:

    Worried Mom,

    Im sorry to hear about the troubles your daughter is facing and I cannot imagine how tough and heartbreaking it is to witness her struggle. Im not a mom yet but I was your daughter in my elementary and middle school years.

    I had a rough falling out with kids in middle school which honestly shaped the way I viewed relationships with women from that point on. Probably the reason why Im here on this blog today is I still find it somewhat difficult to fully trust women as friends. It brings tears to my eyes as I write this to know that another child is going through the same pain that I once did.

    If I could say what I wish my mom couldve done differently was to find support groups, big sisters, family or even start a group yourself to help your daughter. I think that would have made a difference for me now in my mid twenties.

    I wish you and your babygirl the best of luck. sending postive vibes your way.

  3. Susan M. says:

    It is critically important that the physician prescribing her meds., treating her, etc., is actually a board certified MD or DO with a specialization in the field of child and/or adolescent psychiatry! perhaps this is the case, but I would be remiss if I did not state this

  4. Hi Any, Lauren is right exercise or yoga may be good for you Don’t rely on medications alone.
    Take full sleep and enjoy every moment of your like.
    Don’t take anything as a burden.

  5. Lauren says:

    I am no expert in these matters, but I do believe that exercise is a very good remedy against depression. I realize that it’s not everything, but it helps. Perhaps you could have her take tennis lessons, or lessons in swimming or some other sport. Also, she will meet other teens there and form new friends and acquaintances. I also want to say kudos to you for being such a good, caring mother. Best wishes to you and your daughter.

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