My 8-year-old daughter, Nee, will be starting a new school next fall and I think she’s feeling a bit anxious.
“I don’t want to be the new girl,” she said as she sat drawing at the kitchen table.
This statement was not usual because Nee is extremely shy and doesn’t make friends easily. Of course, my wife, K, hates the fact that Nee is not a chatty-Cathy. Her sole purpose in life is to make Nee more social.
“Everyone is always curious about the new girl,” K told Nee. “All of the kids will want to meet you and find out about you.” Nee looked at her with horror and continued drawing. What K failed to realize is that being the center of attention not something Nee is comfortable with.
But K would not be denied. She decided to teach Nee how to make friends by role playing.
“I don’t want to do this,” said Nee.
“C’mon,” said K. “It’ll be fun.”
Realizing that her mom would not leave her alone until she played along, Nee reluctantly agreed.
“I’ll be one of the girls in class,” said K. “And you just be yourself.”
“Hello,” K said extending her hand to Nee. “My name is K.”
“My name is Nee,” Nee crossed her arms, refusing to shake hands. “Now go away!”
K was flabbergasted. I thought Nee’s response was pretty funny.
“Nee,” K said. “I know it’s hard for you to make new friends, but I can help you.”
Nee returned to her drawing hoping her mother would leave her alone.
“You always say you can’t think of anything to say to people. I can help you, even your brother, N, can help you.”
Nee stopped drawing for a minute and stared at her mother.
“You and N are talkers,” she said. “I’m more like, Daddy. We’re not talkers, and I’m O.K. with that.”
So am I.
Although K is troubled by Nee’s lack of social skills, I understand that these things don’t come naturally for everyone. Just like Nee, I was a shy child. It wasn’t until I was in college that I really came out of my shell. I’m still not a social butterfly like my wife and I doubt that I ever will be. Nor will Nee.
Nee’s confidence has been crushed by some mean girls at her previous school; therefore, she refuses to engage others to keep from getting hurt again. But K and I won’t allow that experience to prevent Nee from developing new friendships. Loving her, nurturing her, and rebuilding her self-confidence will be the keys to helping her to open her heart to others without fear.
Being the new girl will be tough for Nee, but we will guide her through it one day at a time.
Question: How do you help your children to be comfortable in social situations?