• Other Friendship Advice

Having problems making friends at a small school

Published: December 8, 2014 | By | 3 Replies Continue Reading
A seventh-grader is having problems making friends at her private school

QUESTION

Hello,

I have been friends with my classmates since second grade and I’m in seventh grade now. My problem started around fifth grade.

My problem is that I’m always left out. My closest friends started hanging out with more people in the class, so I did that too. But the difference is that they are always inviting each other over and never me. I even asked them why they excluded me and they say “Oh! I’m really sorry! I promise I’ll invite you soon!” But they never do. I invite them over, but they never invite me back and getting new friends isn’t really an option because I go to a private school, which doesn’t have as many kids.

One of my closest friends didn’t even invite me for her birthday party, yet she invited people she became friends with after me! My other friend never invites me over either. I usually can’t invite people over since both of they parents work but (I said this already) when I do, they don’t invite back. My sister never invites her classmates over but she is always going to their houses, in fact, I’ve slept over at her friend’s houses!! Please help me, thank you!

Signed, Val

ANSWER

Hi Val,

Being left out, especially in a small school, is such a lonely feeling. You seem to have done the first few things I would have suggested– telling your friends how you feel, considering other friend options and inviting people to your house. That tells me your communication and problem-solving skills are mature for your age. You would like the same consideration from your friends.

Have you ever asked, on a Friday, what friends are doing for the weekend? They might tell you they aren’t sure. If they mention a specific activity you can say, “That sounds fun. Can I come?”

Directly asking for what you need can be scary, and you risk feeling hurt or rejected if your friends make an excuse or say you can’t come. I always say, never ask a question if you don’t want or can’t deal with an answer you don’t want.

Your letter said that you don’t have options because your school is small. You also said starting in fifth grade, your friends started pulling away and hanging out with different people. That makes me wonder if you may be overlooking a few people, girls you never considered as friend material. I can guarantee your school has others who are going through the same frustrations as you are and like you, they probably look more confident on the outside than how they feel on the inside.

Other girls have written letters similar to yours, and most of them think everyone else has better friends and feels more secure. Almost every teenager I’ve worked with has felt socially insecure, and most think they are alone with those feelings. Most every woman I know felt left out or like they didn’t belong and unique in her feelings.

A lot of unhappiness people experience comes from a few mistaken expectations:

1)  SHOULDS 

We read books, watch TV or movies, and compare ourselves to others based on how we imagine we “should” be.  For example: I should go over to my friends’ house and sleep over because that’s what everyone else is doing (or because my sister does or because that’s what everyone does).

2)  EVERYBODY ELSE 

We assume everyone feels secure, relaxed and happy and fail to realize others think the same about us.

3)  MATTERING 

In our eagerness for friends and to feel included, we forget our importance. We feel sad or bad or insecure, wondering what’s wrong with us, or what we did wrong, or how can I fix this—and don’t remember that our feelings matter and that we deserve positive feelings from our friends. We neglect to ask ourselves, “Do I want to be friends with girls who keep excluding me?” or “If they start including me tomorrow, do I pretend they never treated me unkindly and hope it doesn’t happen again?” We matter and we deserve to have good, kind, thoughtful friends. We deserve to be treated with respect, not just tolerated.

I encourage you to be creative looking for friends. Avoid thinking how you should be or what everyone else is doing. Make your own path. Consider girls in your neighborhood and girls who are a grade ahead or a grade behind you. Think about doing an after school activity/sport or taking lessons with other kids your age. If you’re close to your sister, ask for her thoughts and advice.

I hope things turn around for you soon.

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. Reagan B says:

    i am having the same problem with my best friend. when my frenemy’s best friend moved to a public school, she started kind of “poisoning” my best friend. they got really close, and kind of just shut me out. i’m scared to tell her my feelings again, she might just do the same thing, promise to do better and stop talking about me and include me more, but it has only gotten worse. Every day there is one or two, maybe even three times a day, that she is talking to my fr-enemy behind her hand and looking at me and giggling. she doesnt understand my feelings cause she’s so popular and pretty and everyone loves her. i am kind of that invisible girl in the background sometimes, just hiding, trying not to get hurt, so, really, just being a doormat. it doesnt feel good, but it is better than not knowing what to say and trying not to look as hurt as i feel. i feel like no one can help. my frenemy always says its a joke, but i know she just says that. apparently it is sooo funny, and i guess i just need to take it like a woman, but i just can’t do this anymore. Can anyone help me
    -Reagan

  2. DJ says:

    That does sound rough. Is your location large enough that there are kids your age that go to other schools that you could meet by joining aftershool activities and hobbies? I remember when at school meeting other kids from other schools through girl guides. I also met kids 1-2 years younger and older there. You also mention you’ve been on sleep overs with your sister. Are there possibilities with her friends? Good luck and take care DJ

  3. Sandra says:

    Hi Val —
    Not sure if this is of help to you, but here goes. My son attended a small parochial school. When he was younger, he had trouble making friends. But just as Amy advised in her response, he started getting involved in after school activities and making more friends. When you have an interest in a sport, music, or another program, you will find that you’ll naturally form friendships around those interests.

    Also, one of the benefits of a smaller school is that the teachers and counselors — the administration — are often more available and more active with the students. When you have problems or need someone to talk to about how things are going at school, or making friends, it helps to talk to the counselors and get their advice.

    My son had a problem with a bully in middle school, but he was able to stop it early on by talking to his teachers and making the school counselor aware of the problem.

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