Your Child Today: 11 to 14 years

"Nobody Likes Me": How to help your child find friends

Making friends seems like something everyone should know how to do. Yet for many kids it doesn't happen naturally.

Most friendship problems begin in the mid-elementary years, according to Robert Hughes, Jr., of the Department of Human Development and Family Science at Ohio State University. Before second grade, children choose friends out of convenience. In third grade, the concept of popularity develops, and cliques begin to form.

By middle school, friendships become more intense and are based on personality or ability levels. With early teens, friendships deepen as teenagers begin to understand the importance of intimacy and loyalty.

Elaine McEwan, author of Nobody Likes Me (Shaw), identified three reasons why a child isn't accepted: the characteristics of the school and community; your child's characteristics; and/or your child's behavior.

Outside Factors

The culture of your child's school might be the problem. If the majority of students don't share your family's values or moral standards, your child will find it difficult to develop positive relationships. It's possible to survive in this environment, McEwan says, but it takes a thick skin and a lot of support from home. If this is the cause of your child's lack of friends, you might consider home schooling or enrolling him in another school.

Personal Characteristics

Is there anything about your child's appearance that could expose her to needless teasing? Kids can be cruel toward one another. Be realistic about the social impact of your child's appearance and consider how orthodontists, dermatologists or orthopedists might help.

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May 25

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