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Finding Friends: Encouraging Social Success

Q. I have two daughters, ages 5 and 10, and making friends is the big problem for the older girl. The younger one plays with her best friend down the street and her many young cousins but the older one has nobody. She did have a best friend who lived on the block, but about two years ago another girl their age moved in and now those girls are very close and have nothing to do with my daughter. It is very hard to have one child playing all the time and the other playing none of the time. I have even asked the parents if the girls could all play together, but things only got worse. Nothing has worked. Our older child is involved in Girl Scouts, basketball, and dance, and I know she gets along with other girls because I help out at school, yet no one ever, ever calls her to play or do anything. I have even thought about moving so she can have a friend. I feel bad because she is missing so much.

A. You did not have to say your older child is 10 or that she is a girl. The Age of the Clique is as predictable as the sunrise and sunset, and it is really rotten, but it will, in time, fade away. Cliques usually begin in the spring of second grade, go on to reach their peak in the spring of fifth grade, and taper off over the next five years.

They also affect girls more than boys. These girls routinely drop old friends to be with people who share their new enthusiasms and their same interest  -- or disinterest  -- in boys. Which does not make life any easier for the dropee. Each rejection makes her feel and act a little more like a loser, and eventually potential friends may think that she is.

Scouts, basketball, and dance will help, but your daughter will build up her self-esteem  -- and her image  -- better and quicker if she does for others as well as for herself.

She could help a mother with a disabled child, play games at a recreation program for seniors, or clean up with an environmental group.

The more she helps others, the better she will feel about herself, and this will draw friends to her. Studies show that most popular students do community work.

Do not expect your older daughter to become queen of the May, however. She is not as gregarious as her little sister and will probably always limit her circle to two or three close friends. And that is fine. Your child must live by her nature, not yours.

WHAT TO READ

Teaching Your Child the Language of Social Success by Marshall P. Duke, Ph.D., Stephen Nowicki, Jr., Ph.D., and Elisabeth A. Martin, M.Ed. ($15; Martin)

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