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Let me be clear. I'm not worried about her behavior or think it is abnormal or anything. I am just looking for feedback on how I handled the situation and/or tips on how to approach similar cases.

My daughter was going to a friend's birthday party at a bowling alley. She knew ~50% of the kids. When she got there she sat alone for over 15 minutes, saying she didn't know everyone and that she didn't want to play or talk to anyone. I asked her if she was having fun and she said s was not, and then she wanted to hug on me, holding on to my arm for several minutes. I told her I'd give her a quick hug but that I'd sit behind her so that she could approach other kids and to only come to me if she needed to. My intent was to show support without being a crutch or a replacement for talking to people. Eventually she started to bowl on an empty lane, and when the other children came over she was talking to them. But even so she took her stuffed toy with her and wouldn't put it down even while bowling.

I think it was her just being overwhelmed, and I think I had the right response. She is diagnosed with ADHD but I don't known if that is a factor. I find it interesting that she was flip a switch between being super outgoing and making friends wherever she goes, or acting very withdrawn and shy. I think either one would be within "normal" healthy limits but I'm seeing a very divergent pattern and can't predict how she'll respond in different situations. Which I guess is expected of a 7 year old.

I added the attachment tag because I had to break away from her hugging my arm and ask her to at least sit (where she could see me) by herself rather than holding on to me for more than a few minutes.

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    "...she took her stuffed toy with her and wouldn't put it down even while bowling." That is absolutely adorable. She needed her comfort object and she held on to it, soothing herself in a difficult situation. Good on her! Dec 11, 2023 at 5:28
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    "I had to break away from her hugging my arm" No, you didn't have to do that. You could have let her hug your arm for as long as she wanted. Also, be critical of ADHD 'diagnoses'. Doctors 'diagnose' kids left and right with ADHD because they don't pay attention to things they don't enjoy, which is in fact perfectly normal and healthy. Dec 25, 2023 at 18:40

3 Answers 3

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Based on what you have written, you handled the situation well enough. You treated her with enough love and kindness that she could accept that she couldn't keep on hanging on to you or hiding behind you.

The only thing that I might have done differently, but that entirely depends on details of the situation, is that when she mentioned not knowing all the children present, to direct her attention to some children she does know. It could have been that she was so focused on all the people she didn't know that she literally didn't see her friends.

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I think this is normal.

Karate instructor here, 5 years, classes with young kids up to 8 years old.

Its very common in my karate class to have kids stand on the side and not participate for a while, and then after 15 minutes they decide to join in the class and participate.

Some kids need some time to "warm up", or to become familiar with a new environment, or to feel safe, or to observe the other kids for a little while.

Remember that your reaction to their nervousness can affect how it goes in the situation, and I think you handled it well - quiet support and encouragement, standing nearby but not hovering too close, seems to work best.

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  • +1 As parents most of the time we see just our own kid(s), so this is really insightful.
    – Ivana
    Dec 14, 2023 at 15:24
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IMO, it's easy to overthink a situation like this. To me the more important factor is whether you let your daughter have the autonomy to deal with the situation however she likes (which you did).

The parenting payback isn't in dealing with the situation the 'correct' way, it's that your daughter was faced with a new situation and was allowed to use her problem solving skills to deal with it. This is an experiment / experience for her, something new she can learn from, and that she's learned from. It's also an opportunity to guide her in a positive (not controlling) fashion.

When she's older, maybe she finds that she likes her own company and doesn't want to go bowling with people. That's ok. Or maybe she becomes more social, that's ok too. The important thing is that she's being allowed to learn and be who she is, not who others want her to be.

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