My daughter is almost 9 and entering the 3rd grade. She has a lot of friends at school from being in sports and girl scouts. However, when we see them at a public place our daughter pretends she doesn’t know them, won’t say hi without being told to, etc. Whenever she’s in a group she’s a wallflower. She will only go up to a friend if they’re by themselves, she doesn’t go up to a group of multiple friends.

Is this low self esteem or social anxiety? How do I help her?

  • 2
    Have you asked her why she doesn't approach her friends? – Marzipanherz Aug 9 at 14:53
  • @Marzipanherz Yes, but it's always an excuse. Example: she doesn't want to, someone in the group is someone she doesn't like, she lies and says she doesn't see them, etc. – Tom Aug 9 at 17:05
  • Does she ever see you with your friends? – Ian MacDonald Aug 9 at 20:40
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    "Has a lot of friends at school from being in sports and girl scouts"; How sure are you that this is the case? How do you define "friend"? I was in the boy scouts, and I only had two friends in my troop, who were my friends from before and outside; One of my few friends was in sports, but was not friends with anyone on his team, per what he told me. Acquaintance does not necessarily equal friend (where "friend" is defined as someone I would want to spend time with). I ask this from my own childhood, where my mother would complain that I did not spend time with "my friends". – sharur Aug 10 at 16:37

For some kids, exposing themselves to a group of others is difficult. I can imagine your daugther is afraid of being rejected or ridiculed by the group in public, and might need a bit of help to overcome this fear at first.

You could step in, walk over to her friends with her, say hello, make some smalltalk with the girls, get your daughter involved in the conversation and then pull back once she's settled in.

Then once you did this a few times, just prompt your daughter to try it herself, possibly suggesting a few things she could say to melt the ice when walking up to the group.

This way, your daughter gets to see how you make contact with her friends, she sees that nothing bad happens when you do, and she can copy your example.

You could also talk to her about how she can react to bungled social interactions (being able to laugh at yourself instead of being mortally ashamed is very handy, but was terribly hard for me to learn as a child), so that she has a backup plan for what to do if something goes wrong - which will calm her and give her more confidence in the first place.

  • This is a good answer, but I would just add that it very much sounds like there is something that is uncomfortable for your daughter in those interactions- girl scouts and sports. Both group activities can have cliques and have dominance dynamics that are unpleasant or worse for those who are not in the clique. I would be curious to learn whether the daughter shows enthusiasm for those activities, or if getting her to go to them is itself difficult; similarly, what is her temperament when she returns from them. Is she happy/relaxed or do they create emotional tension she has to work through. – Jonah Benton Aug 12 at 17:08

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