breaking into friendship groups

(22 Posts)
0ntheUp Thu 05-Sep-13 19:32:22

DD 14 and DS 11 have just started at a new school, large (2000+ kids), with our move to the area from abroad. Days 1 and 2 have been dire. Buddy dumped DD after lesson 1 without passing her on. They aren't on the register in any class so have to explain again and again who they are. And the kids all appear in settled friendship groups, so while they are trying to chat, break into groups, they have both, both days, come home in tears at having groups gravitate away from them. DS, normally outgoing and gregarious, spent breaktime today circling playground on his own, and then went to the boys toilets to cry. They aren't insensitive, but know literally no one there and its really hard to find a toehold. I also don't know any parents in the area, and work full time.

I emailed the transition manager last night for any handouts they gave at the transition day we couldn't attend because we weren't in the country yet, in the hope of contact names/emails but she claims there weren't any. I'd guess the official point of contact would be their class tutors, but the kids don't want to stand out any more, and frankly they have so far been so lamentable in any communication with other staff or the buddies, hard to see that putting it on paper will make it any better. The ideal would be tips on how your kids have broken into friendship groups, and ideas on timescales so I can try and manage their expectations. Grateful for any tips.

BlackMogul Thu 05-Sep-13 21:48:13

Oh dear. This sounds sad and it simply cannot be that there are no pleasant children in their year groups at all. My DDs both started schools knowing absolutely no-one and, unless there is a little group of new children, existing friendship groups can be a problem to break into. However, as they play sport with other children, sit next to them in lessons, work in small groups and generally have a laugh, they will find children they have something in common with. I went to secondary school with lots from my primary school, but my friends were put in another class and I hated it for a while. Another possibility might be joining after-school and lunchtime activities, quickly. This might also get them into groups of like-minded children. Try and find out what is available. Do they walk to school? Have you worked out if anyone nearby walks to school for companionship. I am not aware that secondary schools give out class lists, but you should have details of who is who on the school staff. It is difficult to say how long they might feel isolated as all children are different, but I would give it a couple of weeks, but I would be proactive in getting them into other activities, especially in school. Hope some of his helps.

0ntheUp Thu 05-Sep-13 21:55:08

Thanks BlackMogul, thats really helpful. You're right, of course there must be pleasant kids there too. But its a tricky balancing act, trying to look a bit confident, yet open to conversation, chatting lightly yet not butting in on friendship groups.

I liked the suggestion of the lunchtime clubs and will google them now. Can't help feeling there must be more information than we have been given (basically just guidance on paying dinner money) but there doesn't seem to be much on the website either. But shall dig in this direction, and try to redirect their efforts.

We live very close to the school, so walking to school not that hopeful, but possible to arrive conveniently soon after those you might be keen to chat to! Your message has made me feel more hopeful, its a terrible thing as a mum watching your kids being so courageous with so little return. And I know, realistically, it takes months to build friendships.

alpinemeadow Thu 05-Sep-13 22:24:41

Can you find out the person responsible for pastoral care, or heads of year, or form tutors and explain the problem and ask for help in guiding your dd and ds towards other dcs who may be possible friends? Am i right in thinking dd has joined as the 'only' new girl, whereas ds will be with all new entrants in yr 7? In each case the school should have some strategies to help those who are having difficulty making friends.

I agree about encouraging them to join clubs- do they have interests like sport, music, drama, that there are clubs for? Maybe a choir? It can be easier to make friends 'naturally' if you're 'doing' something,

0ntheUp Fri 06-Sep-13 01:47:00

Thanks Alpinemeadow. Yes DD is only new child in year, but as the catchment area is very tight, looks like DS might be only child not from a feeder school. But helpful to know school should have some strategies in place to support, and think being guided towards other isolated kids or welcoming kids would be v helpful.

Its quarter to two in the morning and I've woken up wondering what else I can do for them without stepping over the line, but it does feel urgent I think as I'm not sure how long they can carry on like this. Shall go and write a list of options now for them to choose tactics from, for the morning. Thanks to you both so much, - any other hints from anyone?

alpinemeadow Fri 06-Sep-13 07:04:34

Hi ontheup, sympathies to you all, what a difficult situation. Ah yes, feeder schools - can make it hard for the non-feeders, although sometimes it's hard for the feeder children as well, they can be left very hurt if a best friend moves into a different social group, so it works both ways.

Yes, the school ought to have strategies, though you may have to push. Understandably the school may say 'it takes time, let things develop, let's see how things are at half term' - yes, this sounds sensible but problem is that that can lead to your child losing confidence if they have no friends, and then that makes it even harder to make new chums. So press the school for action - and also really encourage your dc to go to the clubs, and go back next week even if nobody speaks to them the first time!

Other tips for your ds and dd? Look out for anyone else in their class who's looking lonely, and go and chat - this may be more fertile ground than the 'established groups'.
And, although this may sound odd, i would encourage a lot of skyping etc with the old friends from abroad - both because it's good to keep in touch, but also it will help dc to make new friends to boost their morale and confidence by 'socialising' with the old ones.

Good luck! Must be very stressful for you with move to new area from abroad as well, so make sure you watch some good tv/dvd comedies this weekend!

alpinemeadow Fri 06-Sep-13 07:12:12

Also(can't stop!) in your new area why not look for a couple of local, non-school, clubs each dc could join - martial arts, scouts, drama, anything! To help them 'embed' into the area generally, and also have an alternative focus, for when it's a bad day at school.
Are there any local neighbours with similar age children you could invite round for a drink at a weekend (though can be harder to get the teens to come along too!) - they may go to same school, and if not it's nice to have non school friends as well. (and would be nice for you as well, though realise that's not your prime focus at the moment!)

exoticfruits Fri 06-Sep-13 07:15:42

I really feel for them - I changed schools at 14 and it is hard. If you can get the lunchtimes sorted out it would be a great help. It isn't too bad in lessons, it is break times that make you feel so isolated. I was fine in the end but it took time.

PickleFish Fri 06-Sep-13 08:39:27

Remind them also that some of the children won't have seen their friends from the previous year all summer, so groups will be full of excited children with lots to talk about, re-establishing themselves, etc, and that's possibly one of the hardest times to break in - in a couple more days, it might all be a bit more relaxed, the old groups will have shaken down a bit, see who's changed over the summer, all that sort of thing, and then might be easier for them to notice/integrate someone new. And activities help a lot too. But reminding them that it takes patience and time, and that it's not that there is anything wrong with them.

alpinemeadow Fri 06-Sep-13 08:49:34

Very good point pf, especially in dd's year they will be (unconsciously at least) keen to 'consolidate' their friendship groups after the holidays - by next week everyone may be a bit more open. And i do agree about encouraging them not to be despondent if they don't get instant results, it can be very crushing if an advance is rejected!

Are there teen/preteen cousins, dc of family friends etc you can meet up with op - that can be a boost as well,

exoticfruits Fri 06-Sep-13 09:08:07

A very good point from PickleFish-I would make that point to them.
My DS went up at 11 yrs with a lot of his year 6 class and in the first few weeks he stuck to them but then he branched out and ended up with most of his friends being ones he made later.
A school with so many pupils seems overwhelming to start with, but it does give a wide friendship pool than a small one.
I think the trick is to talk to whoever you work with in lessons and not get too despondent at break-it is very early days.
I think that I would be inclined to phone the class tutor and discuss but emphasise that they don't want to be singled out in any way.

Wishfulmakeupping Fri 06-Sep-13 09:12:07

Agree with other posters suggestions- groups/clubs will be a great way for them to chat to others.
Just wanted to say hope things get better next week it must be worrying but I'm sure in a few weeks it will be better

SonorousBip Fri 06-Sep-13 10:33:22

I'm sorry to hear it is difficult. I would try and find out what other children that age are interested in and give yours a crash course in it so they have a good conversation opener and/or can keep up with the conversations. I can guarantee you for 11 year old boys it is Minecraft. If your DS does not know about it, start this weekend. Next week he can ask other boys "can you explain Minecraft to me", or "I was looking at Minecraft over the weekend and can't work out how to do it - can you tell me about it". If he does know about it he needs to start conversations about how they do it etc.

I speak with actual knowledge here as my ds - 5 days into y7 - told me with some detail hmm on the way to the busstop this morning that there was one boy in the class who did not know what Minecraft was shock so they all had to tell him (doubtless in great detail).

football is a good one as well, although my DS is not interested. They all seem to quite like Foumula 1 as well.

Also try to watch some tv programmes - my ds (who is definitely no alpha male) likes Mythbusters (hysterically funny), Top Gear hmm, random unexplained alien bollocks on the Discovery Channel and Great British Bake Off (doubt he would admit to that) smile

I'm not so sure what the older girls' equivalents are but someone on here will be able to help. Good luck - its hard, isn't it?

mumslife Fri 06-Sep-13 12:02:50

i have a ds age 11 just started secondary heavily into minecraft who is already seeking out other minecrafters def the way to go smile

StressedandFrazzled Fri 06-Sep-13 16:28:05

My DS started a new school last year Year 7 and just told me yesterday that his "buddy"ditched him after one day and then another one ditched him after two days. He said "it wasn't very nice." I think he found a few friends through football, debating, and other clubs, but it has been extremely tough, and he's only really just finding his feet. I did make an effort to try and communicate with other parents by email, meet up (but we were given class lists) and ask a few kids over etc. But to be honest it does take a while, my DS spent a few lonely lunchtimes reading in the library!

fumanchu Fri 06-Sep-13 17:50:04

Does the school have a PFA which may organise social events so you could get to know some other parents and thus get in the loop? Does the school have a student support officer who you could contact who may have some suggestions?

0ntheUp Fri 06-Sep-13 19:25:06

I can't say how grateful I am to you all. Thank you so so much for your support and wealth of creative suggestions. Today things are slightly better, they have each spoken to other kids who weren't actively rejecting, and the Pastoral Care guy got in touch with DD in response to my letter.

Sonorousbip, with the suggestion of Minecraft I have blossomed into CoolMum in one swift step. First delight seen on his face since school started. Beautiful.

But best of all theres a sense of a peer group out there who have been there, and my panic has abated somewhat so I can come up with your tactics in a calmer, more detached, mum way. Really really grateful. Thanks.

alpinemeadow Sat 07-Sep-13 07:32:34

So glad things were better yesterday, that is excellent news. I agree with all the suggestions on the thread - And good reminder from stressedandfrazzled that the school library can be a haven during a lonely lunchtime. in fact the library can sometimes be a friend-making zone, in a low key way!

Phineyj Sat 07-Sep-13 07:40:28

Your poor kids, that sounds rotten and I'm glad things have improved a little.

Your DD is in year 10 I think? If so, the school may offer DofE at that age. There may be lunchtime sessions she can go to. There may also be a learning support office with sympathetic staff she can go to (even if she doesn't need any learning support she could plausibly ask for some help adapting to British study methods).

coco27 Mon 09-Sep-13 16:16:00

They will work into griups but it takes time.In the meantime I recommend busying themselves at lunchtime with clubs.

0ntheUp Sun 15-Sep-13 18:16:28

Thank you all for this handholding. It has been bleak but is a bit more positive, though it took 4 emails to Heads of Years and tutors, an exercise in DS's class where they discovered 29 out of 30 kids came from same feeder primary (oh!), and having to be very persistent with class tutor that it wasn't ok to just wait and see.

alpinemeadow Sun 15-Sep-13 19:52:36

Well done ontheup, your dcs are lucky to have you to push for them, it sounds as though it was necessary! Hope your dcs are feeling more upbeat - as much as any dc does on a sunday evening!

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