• Other Friendship Advice

My daughter has no friends at a new school

Published: October 20, 2015 | By | 2 Replies Continue Reading
A mom worries that her daughter hasn’t gotten involved with classmates at a new school.


Hi Irene,

We just moved and my 6th grade daughter still does not have friends seven weeks into school. She says she sits alone in the cafeteria most days.

I try to talk to her but she doesn’t want to discuss it and just says she is fine. After school she just goes in her room, shuts the door and watches videos or listens to music. It breaks my heart. I’ve reached out to her school counselor who tried to talk to her and she verified that she sits alone at lunch and that she seems very lonely. She suggested joining a few clubs but my daughter wasn’t interested.

I was thinking of going back to our old neighborhood for a long weekend but worry that will set her back even more as she will invest in trying to stay as connected with friends “back home” rather than try to make new friends.

I’ve read your suggestions on other posts, but she is very shy. She is involved in a Lacrosse team on the weekend but even there she just stands and does her job without really talking to the other girls. I am desperate for help.

Signed, Lisa


Hi Lisa,

I can imagine how upsetting it must be for any mom to think of her child sitting alone in a lunchroom and feeling isolated at a new school. Yet, since your daughter says she is doing fine (and I’m assuming she isn’t anxious about going to school and is doing well academically), could it be that she really isn’t as upset about being without friends at school as you might think?

Admittedly, it is difficult for any child to enter a new school where the other students have formed bonds over a number of years. When a child is innately shy by temperament, the challenges can even be greater. Shy children need more time to scope out a social situation and feel comfortable before they become involved.

It was great that you reached out to the school counselor with your concerns but given that your daughter doesn’t warm up to new people right away, it might be worthwhile to ask the counselor if she could meet with your daughter at least several times to get to know your daughter better, to give your daughter a chance to express her feelings, and to help her identify some strategies to get more involved socially in small steps. For example, might it be possible for the counselor to involve your daughter one-on-one with another student helping out around the school in some way during the lunch hour?

Participating in a team sport like Lacrosse may also help build your daughter’s confidence so she begins to feel more comfortable with these girls as time progresses.

Remember that different children, even in the same family, have different temperaments. Try not to push your daughter into social situations that might overwhelm her or inadvertently convey your own anxiety about her style of relating. On the other hand, you might reassure her by openly acknowledging that moving always brings challenges and making new friends can take some time. Watch for any signs that suggest she is unhappy or uncomfortable.

In terms of returning to your old neighborhood, does your daughter still communicate with these friends online? Has she asked to have a long weekend? If that interest is hers as opposed to yours, I don’t think there is anything wrong in responding to her interest in occasionally visiting old friends with whom she feels comfortable.

Many times, children outgrow shyness. But if you and the counselor think that your daughter’s shyness is interfering with her ability to connect with people her age in and out of school, and has been a persistent problem, you might want to speak to a therapist to get an expert opinion. The National Institute of Mental Health has some information worth reading on Social Phobia Among Children, including a brochure that identifies some of the signs and symptoms.

Hope this helps.

My best, Irene

P.S. I just saw this article on NPR that might be helpful, too:

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Category: Child and adolescent friendships, Helping children deal with friendship problems

Comments (2)

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  1. Tara says:

    Hi Lisa,
    I can understand how difficult a situation that is to navigate for both you and your daughter. I like what Irene and Amy F suggested.

    It seems like you understand her temperament (shyness) and she has communicated her wants (to visit her old friends) – which seems like there is good enough communication between you two for the early stages of adolescence.

    I remember 6th grade and have switched schools as well and that is a rather difficult process. Not necessarily from the aspect of meeting new friends but also from getting to know a new place – how a new school works, classes, where I need to go to stuff. Stuff that one wouldn’t think of when in a comfortable setting. Everything is new, not only the friendships.

    Something that may be happening (and please know I don’t mean to 100% understand the situation) is that your daughter could sense that your hidden agenda is the majority of the time to talk about her ‘friend’ situation. And it may be something she is trying to sort out herself along with new teachers, finding her niche. This can be daunting, I find this to be the case when someone knows of a particular vulnerability of mine and they keep wanting to talk about and sometimes I want to focus on something else b/c that is what I need. Something you could consider is that if this is a new place for you too that you and your daughter go for a walk in the new area, explore a place in your new home. Not with the intention of discussing her ‘friend’ situation but with the purpose of exploring together and seeing new experiences as not only overwhelming but also fun (the positive side to it). Doing something outside of your normal routine together helps to create a relaxed environment in the unfamiliar.

    I wish you and your daughter the best.
    Kind regards,

  2. Amy F says:

    Staying in touch with old friends might be just what she needs to remind herself the pleasure she gets around others. Her friends might be the right people to encourage her and give her more self confidence.
    I would also consider talking to your pediatrician, because isolation is one of the signs of depression and moving or changing schools can precipitate depression.
    In the mean time, encourage her to “step outside the box” when she’s with you by practicing social skills like making eye contact, saying hello and smiling in places like the grocery store and restaurants. When she sees her friendliness reciprocated, she’ll eventually gain confidence to use those skills with her lacrosse teammates and at school.

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