• Other Friendship Advice

My daughter feels like an outsider

Published: November 6, 2014 | By | 3 Replies Continue Reading
A mom worries that her sophomore daughter feels like an outsider at high school.



My 15-year-old daughter (a sophomore in high school) is struggling making friends. She feels overwhelmed at the thought of school and trying to make friends and having a “group.”

She tells me that she feels like she is the stupid one at school because she doesn’t catch on to things as easily as others. These are her perceptions of her life right now.

I struggled with feelings of awkwardness, shyness, and being an outsider. How can I help her?

Signed, Mari


Hi Mari,

I’m sorry to hear your daughter is struggling. I understand your concern as a mom.

If the feelings of insecurity about school and friends are new, talk to your daughter about what has changed between the time she felt comfortable in school and how she feels now. Did she have any negative experiences to cause a change? What happened with her previous friends? Listening can go a long way in helped her wrestle with her feelings.

Some teens (and adults) are more comfortable socializing with a group, others prefer one-on-one friendships, and others socialize with different people in different groups. She doesn’t necessarily need a group if she has a friend or two with whom she connects.

Let your daughter know that you struggled with similar feelings and that even people who are part of a “group” can feel like outsiders. I worked with a pretty, friendly, smart, and popular teen who felt like she didn’t fit in with her popular friends—that she wasn’t really one of them. None of her friends felt like she didn’t belong and a few admitted to feeling the same way she did.

If your daughter has always struggled with these issues, she might benefit from some professional counseling to improve her self-esteem so she feels more comfortable among her peers. Also, there may be opportunities to speak with her teachers or counselors during the course of the semester to see how she is doing academically.

I hope she has a better time going forward.

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

Comments (3)

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  1. Mrs. Chen says:

    Hi Mari,
    Does your daughter feel”stupid” and like she doesn’t “catch on to things” in the context of her social circle or her academics? If it’s in academics, then it’s easy — she needs to visit her teachers during office hours to get extra help.

    If it’s in her social life, then her “friends” are intentionally excluding her. They are not bothering to tell her important details and that is why she feels that she is not “catching on” to the conversation that everyone else seems to get. They treat her like an unimportant tag-along.

    She needs to lose those “friends”. I know it’s not easy especially if she feels that she doesn’t have other friends. But to continue to hang on to her current “friends” will just convince her that she really doesn’t matter to anyone. Eventually she will begin to treat herself as if she didn’t matter.

    It’s a difficult situation. It would certainly help her if you share with her your own social difficulties growing up, so she knows that things will eventually turn out ok. Show her she matters to you –I am not talking about spoiling her with stuff. Ask her about her day, her school work, her feelings about interesting current events, etc. And if she has younger siblings or cousins, get her opinions on issues these younger kids might be having. Ask her to talk some sense into these youngsters. The point is to make her feel that her contribution is expected and valued and that you count on her to help with the younger members of the family. You may not think so now, but your opinion of her matters to your daughter more than you realize.

    In the meantime, try to re-focus her attention from her social life to her school work. She is obviously not “stupid” if she gets better grades than some of those “friends”. And if she is not “desperate” to make friends, she will appear more confident to other kids, which will make her more attractive to them.

  2. mouse says:

    Lily, I think you hit on the secret for long range comfort in relationships. Cultivate kindness. Practice a hello and smile for everyone. I remember even as an adult the first day I entered a community center as the new person. One woman gave me a big smile with a hello and it melted most of my fears on the spot. I never forgot that. I look forward to any moments now, when I can offer that to someone else. A smile at the coolest kids with hello and to the dwerbiest and to all those inbetween is the best medicine. And I guarantee that the friendly smiling kind person doesn’t wind up on the outside in the end.

  3. Lily says:

    Mari, high school can be terrifying for all. I think everyone is going through insecurities, but they have a different way of showing it. It can be hard to overcome them. I was a quiet kid, but made sure I looked like I had it together in front of everyone, even though on the inside I was struggling with myself. I also liked to laugh (not in an obnoxious way), at humour made by the teachers. It helped break that tension in my classes and set a relaxed feeling. I’d tell my daughter not to be too interested in being part of a group. It’s unfortunate, but we are all judgmental of others,gossipy and jealous, which can in turn be hurtful in the end. My big thing is be civil and kind with everyone, even to people who you think don’t like you. You’ll come out right in the end.

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