Hard topic coming – I am looking for advice, thoughts, reflection . . . whatever you have to offer, I’m receptive.
My daughter (age 6) came home from school yesterday in tears, reporting that at recess her best friend refused to talk or play with her, instead sending “messages” through a third girl that they were no longer best friends and that my daughter was not allowed to play. It seems her best friend wanted to play with someone new, and my girl was not part of the plan.
*BIG FEELINGS* on all parts here.
I was bullied mercilessly as a child – not in the way we often think of bullying, where some older kid takes your lunch money every day. I was subjected to what they now call “relationship bullying” – where one person is excluded from the group and talked about behind her back. I am not sure there was a name for it back in the 80s, but that’s what happened to me. I have BIG feelings relating to this time, and it remains a raw spot for me, even twenty years later. Whenever I think about those girls, feelings of insecurity and anxiety wash over me. This is the stuff that lasts, people.
So, to see my baby girl feeling this so early (first grade, really????) set off some alarm bells for me. I did my best to squash my own history, and to approach the problem with her in a calm and reasonable way.
We strategized: if it happens again, instead of trying to convince the others to let her play, my daughter agreed it would be better to just find someone else to play with that day. She shared there were several other girls in her class who saw her sadness and tried to comfort her. She agreed that playing with them might be a good idea for a while.
We practiced: I pretended to be the messenger, bringing mean messages. My girl practiced saying “STOP” and walking away from me.
We planned: We talked about what to do if these two things didn’t work – if the girls persisted and if saying “stop” and walking away didn’t work, we talked about asking for help.
Then, after she felt confident in the plan, I reached out to the mother of her best friend. I don’t think that the best friend was necessarily being malicious – they are too little. I think the BFF probably just wanted to play with someone new that day. Heavens knows, my kids can be thoughtless from time to time and it is part of growing up and learning about relationships with others. That being said, I did not want this kind of thing to become a regularity, and at this age, we mommas still have a lot of pull with our littles. Thank goodness, this momma was receptive. She and I worked together about how to handle the issue, and she was 100% on board to help.
When I sent baby girl off to school today, my heart went with her. I sit at my computer, praying and hoping that the day will go well. That everyone will be nice to her. She has a big heart and big love, and I don’t want her to lose her love and trust in her friends. I don’t want her scarred, like me.
Friends, have you encountered this with your little ones? How did you handle it? Did I do okay? Is there anything I could do differently if this happens again? Parents of older children, do you have any advice about to handle this sort of thing as our kids get older?