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My 9-year-old daughter (let's call her Lisa) dances with a dance company that has its studio near our home. She has several very close friends in the company with whom she has weekly play dates or sleepovers. These girls are like part of the family to us! Another girl in the company, a year younger (let's call her Mary), has not developed friendships with the girls in her age group at the studio despite my efforts to encourage my daughter to befriend her the first year they danced together. Mary does not engage well with children her own age. Last year many of the girls, including my daughter, complained about Mary's behavior at dance quite a bit. I often heard that she was telling them what to do a lot of the time, or telling them they were doing the wrong thing and making others feel badly. Lisa and I talked about her responsibility in each situation, and what she could do to make things better; how she could include Mary. This year, there isn't any talk of Mary. While Lisa and her friends are nice to Mary and obviously have to work together in dances, they seem to have moved on and are no longer concerned about Mary and her behavior. The other girls are all very close and have fun together at dance. Mary rarely joins in. She seems content to just float around the edges (unless an instructor is present - in which case Mary is always right there demanding the instructor's attention.) My daughter and her friends have matured, whereas Mary has not. Getting to my question: Last May, Mary invited all of my daughter's closest friends, both from dance and from school (Mary lives in our neighborhood, unlike the rest of the dance group) to her birthday party. Lisa was not invited, but she did find out about it and was crushed to be excluded. Because Lisa had been complaining about Mary throughout the year, I focused on this with Lisa. I asked her why she thought she wasn't invited and what she could've done differently to be a better friend to Mary. I asked Lisa if in fact she wanted to be friends with Mary. We had some good discussions. Whenever Lisa veered off the subject and wanted to point out that none of the other girls are friends with Mary and they got invited, I steered her back on track. (Being that the only person Lisa has control over is herself. What would she like to do differently?) Lisa cried for a LONG time that day - heart broken crying, not tantrum crying - but we had plans to meet one of her dance friends later that day (Anne was getting her ears piereced and wanted Lisa's moral support) which would be a good distraction. When we met Anne and her mom at the shop, Mary and her mother showed up! They had heard that Anne was getting her ears piereced and found out where, and decided that they'd come too to get Mary's ears piereced. Mary's party had been earlier that day, and they had all just come from there. Lisa knew this, but in spite of being so sad, she did wonderfully. She was friendly and sweet and encouraging to both Anne and Mary while they got their ears piereced. A couple of weeks later Mary invited Lisa over to play. Lisa wanted to go and they had a good time. Mary's mother told me later how wonderfully they played together and said "we should do this more often." I periodically asked Lisa if she'd like to have Mary over, but she said no. (She had more in common with her other friends from dance and school - her friends that were the same age.) Mary's birthday party, this year, is next Wednesday. One of the other dance moms asked me if I wanted to carpool, which is how I found out. Mary has invited all of the dance group - even more of them than last year - but has once again excluded Lisa. Lisa does not yet know about the party but when she does find out she will be very sad. Mary has invited all of Lisa's friends but not her! The other girls aren't friends with Mary so why are they invited and Lisa is not? Mary has even invited Lisa's new best buddy who just moved here from N.C. Mary doesn't know this girl at all! My Question: How do I talk about this with my daughter, Lisa? (I think I should again focus on Lisa. Does she want to be close friends with Mary? - she'll probably say no. Have there been any problems with Mary this year - what is Lisa's responsibility here? Has she been mean/hurtful/rude/done anything to cause Mary to feel bad? When Lisa points out that Mary has invited all of the other girls and she isn't friends with them, I'll steer her back toward focusing on herself. I'll be calm on the outside "No big deal! You're not interested in developing a strong friendship with Mary anyway. You two don't click, right? You can continue to be nice, but it's okay to not choose to spend your free time outside the studio with her." But I DON'T feel calm on the inside!) And mainly - do I talk with Mary's mom? This seems pretty personal to me. Mary's mom has GOT to know that this is hurtful toward Lisa. Mary's mom knows that the girls she's invited are not friends of Mary's. I don't know that Mary has any friends, even from school or the neighborhood, that she plays with on a regular basis. These girls are only 9 and will probably be dancing together for years. And by the way, Mary is a very good dancer!! I am sure that her social skills will improve with time, right? Are we going to go through this every year - Mary inviting everyone but Lisa? Thank you for your help!


James Crist Replied: This is a common, but tough situation. It's possible Mary took Lisa's not reciprocating the play date invitation personally, and figured that Lisa didn't like her. It also seems that Lisa wants to be invited to Mary's parties, but not engage in any other aspects of friendship with Mary, and this seems unfair to me. She can't have it both ways. Remember also that Mary has social skill issues, and may not even be fully aware of Lisa's feelings--she may assume that since Lisa never invited Mary for a play date after Mary invited her, that Lisa isn't interested in being friends--a reasonable assumption that may have hurt Mary's feelings. Given your daughter's age, it's normal to feel left out given the circumstances. Let her know you understand her feelings, but that she may have unintentionally hurt Mary's feelings too. If your daughter wants to be included, she will have to reach out to Mary and invite her over from time to time--it doesn't have to be a frequent thing. Perhaps she can send Mary a birthday card wishing her a happy birthday, which would be a very mature thing to do, and suggest that they get together sometime. But if Lisa chooses not to befriend Mary, then you can help her accept that she won't get invitations and this is just part of life. Focus on understanding and accepting her feelings, and helping her explore possible solutions, rather than feeling a need to "fight the battle for her" and you'll teach her a valuable life skill. Good luck!
Posted On 2008-05-02 23:37:43
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