How Can I Help My 3rd Grade Daughter Develop More Friendships?

I've been struggling the last few months seeing my daughter have ups and downs with her close friends at school. She had a best friend in preschool and they’re still friends but now go to different schools. She made a new best friend in Kindergarten but that friend left after second grade. Now there are a couple of girls my daughter is fairly close to in class, but sometimes I sense that she wants to be closer with one of them, but that girl seems to have drifted apart a bit from my daughter.

I think in general I just want my daughter to have a best friend, or a couple of really close friends, and lately I’ve been worrying that she’s lonely. She’s an only child. Sometimes I think I’m just overthinking it but at times it really causes me anxiety to think she doesn’t have a close friend at school. I know the girls in her class can be a bit sassy sometimes, and my daughter is pretty sensitive. I’ve made several play dates with some of the girls in her class and I’ll plan to continue that. 

I know she’s doing OK but if anyone has any advice on how I can help her or support her, I’d truly appreciate it:)

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Could have written this about my own third grade girl. I try to keep the lines of communication open with her about "friend issues", we read the nonfiction American Girl friendship guides together, and do occasional role-playing about how to reach out to new people. I try to actively discourage talk about one best friend and talk instead about "classroom friends", neighborhood friends, etc. I would like for her to do a team sport but she's really not interested; otherwise, that would be another route. My main goal is to not make it a big thing that she doesn't have a ton of friends, and trust that at some point she will click more with a small group.

I can totally relate. Our DD lost her best friend in a terrible accident when they were 10 and since then I know she's longed for that kind of close relationship (as I did when I was her age) and I also feel it all very deeply for her. That said, it will be ok. She has some friends, one closer friend but still not quite that bestie thing yet, but I have no doubt as she navigates through life she will. Keep the communication open, sometimes we do overthink/overfeel for them and it's more about us, and sometimes not. It's also helpful to be involved in lots of activities (music, dance, scouts, etc). There are a couple of girl based groups in Berkeley that might be of interest to you (they regularly advertise on BPN). Mine is heading to high school and doing great, so just give it time!

You are sensitive to what you think she is experiencing and you suspect she’s lonely. What has your daughter said to you? Has she been able to express what she is feeling and what she wants in friendships? If her best friend moves away, she’s “lost” her best friend. Maybe she’s wary of that. She may have a “friend needs” that are significantly different from yours. One thing you might try is to help provide additional arenas in which to cultivate friends. I found swim team to be wonderful because everyone swam together and cheered one another on and it was coed as well, so there was the opportunity to spend time with a diverse group of kids. Making friends outside of school is great as it expands the pool and lets children realize that school isn’t the only place for making new friends.  You might also suggest a planned outing with you—to the beach, Golden Gate Park, or to a movie and suggest she invite a friend. Sometimes that “specialness” helps spark a friendship. 

Post on nextdoor to find neighborhood friends. And she should join some kind of clubs and organizations to meet kids, too. School friendships are not enough. 

Hi there - I know the stress you're feeling on behalf of your daughter is real, but (as many folks have asked on other topics), is this your daughter's issue or yours?  Is she as stressed out or sad about the friend situation as you are?  My daughter (now 11, in 6th grade) went through elementary school never having a "best" friend.  She was just friends with several kids, but she often hung out by herself at recess, while other times she joined games or small groups of girls.  It really varied, and we checked in with her teachers at parent-teacher conferences regularly and all said "she's fine - she's just an independent kid."  My daughter never seemed at all concerned about not having a "bestie."  I worried that all the cliques would form and she'd be left out, but that never happened - things tend to be kind of fluid as they get older and girls who were inseparable in 3rd grade hardly hang out 3 years later.  Anyway, fast forward to now, she has a TON of friends in middle school, she's in several different groups of girls from her own elementary school and others, and seems to be the bridge between those groups.  She's very well-liked but still doesn't prefer to have one best friend.  This is not who I was as a kid, and probably not you either, but hopefully like my kid, yours is fine with the situation.  And if she's not, then like I said, things can be very fluid as they get older and there will be a lot of shifting and rearranging of loyalties.  Good luck!

Hello there - I went through this with my only-child daughter in 3rd grade (she is now in middle school) and my advice to you is this - 3rd grade is a transitional time for friendships and, though it feels very painful, it is a normal process for kids who have been friends to separate and find new friends.  It's really hard for your child to go through this, but the good news is that she WILL find other friends. The hard news as a parent is that she is now at an age where she has to navigate this herself and you can't force friendships.  I would agree that you are overthinking it and it sounds like you are letting your own anxiety get the better of you. The best thing you can do is to support your daughter and provide your understanding - don't let your anxiety cloud her own feelings about having friends. Frankly, it's normal to go through periods where one experiences loneliness, and she should not be made to feel bad about it, plus she needs to figure out her own ways of finding friends - it's part of growing up.

Some positive suggestions from my own experience: (1) talk to the teacher about your concerns and ask what they have observed about the class dynamics. We did this, and found that the teacher was extremely aware of the social dynamics, and actually paired our daughter with another child on class projects who seemed to share her interests and it turned out that they became good friends. (2) Rather than playdates, find other ways for your child to connect with kids outside the classroom. For our daughter, Girl Scouts has been great for this, but any other activity where she can make friends with kids outside of school based on a common interest.

Finally, as a parent of an only child, just to provide you reassurance that your child will work through this and that you should step back and not be so anxious about it.  These things go in cycles, and this is just the first of many waves of friendship vs. loneliness that she will encounter and sort out (just like you did, I am guessing). It will all work out!