Dear Mrs. Bluth,
I have a wonderful eight-year-old daughter who is somewhat delayed emotionally and mentally and thus has a difficult time making friends.
This year, we took a bungalow in the hope that a new set of girls would make things easier. She has been going to day camp and there are many girls her age, yet things are no different than they were at home. When the kids get together after day camp she is always left out and is never invited or included in their games on Shabbos. She sits by herself and cries because she is lonely and bored and it hurts her to see all the girls having fun and playing.
In day camp, she holds her own during activities and the counselors are kind and try to encourage the other kids to include her and pick her for team events. They hold her hand on trips because none of the others in the group want her for a buddy or partner, but the truth is not lost on my child and she is hurting so much. I have tried to approach some of the mothers asking if they could try to encourage their girls to include my child in their after camp games, but no one has come through. We will be here for four more weeks of exclusion from group activities and parties.
Mrs. Bluth, it is beginning to affect her behavior. She was always good-natured and even-tempered, but about six months ago, she started acting out and having anger tantrums in school. That is why we decided to go to a bungalow colony, although we can ill afford the expense, just so she can have a better chance of making friends and have a social life. Did we do the right thing? I am afraid we have only made things worse.
I am so sorry for the child as she is definitely suffering. In school it is less evident to a degree if the teacher is aware of the situation and stresses ahavas Yisroel and good middos without making it glaringly evident that their behavior towards your daughter is unacceptable. In a bungalow colony environment, this is almost impossible to enforce when mothers don’t care to be bothered. Sadly, you are going to have to carry this all by yourself and find constructive ways of keeping your child occupied and busy so she doesn’t feel the hurt or the loneliness so much due to boredom. It is true that there is no replacement for human interaction, however, if you could line up interesting and fun activities for after camp time, she can be busy and occupied. Set her up on the porch with paints, modeling clay, markers, stickers and colored paper and other activity projects – it just might entice other girls to ask to join her.
Read to her on the front lawn and she’ll soon have other little girls sit down next to her to hear the story. Bake cookies with her and let her pass them out – nothing makes friends faster than a warm chocolate chip cookie, even if it’s just until the cookie is gone. Yes, I know, it sounds like bribery and you’re right, it is! But it may kick-start some new relationships that may pass for friendship.
I also had a child that was painfully shy and introverted when he was your daughter’s age and this method broke the ice for him socially during a number of summers. Expensive, yes, but worth it a thousand percent!
But there’s really more to the picture than just shyness. The real issue at hand is her being “somewhat delayed mentally and emotionally.” Have you had her evaluated by a children’s therapist? There are so many variables that can cause you daughter’s symptoms and so many approaches that can be implemented to help your child deal with and overcome her social inabilities. The fact that you write about her being in a class with girls her age leads me to believe that she was able to keep up with her schoolwork. However, she would greatly benefit from therapy because, left unattended, all her current pressure and anxiety will only grow with her as she encounters more difficulty in comprehension and problem solving. If at some point she can’t keep up academically it will only make her social situation worse.
Please consider treatment with a specialist in children’s cognitive/behavioral ailments, it could well be a life-saver socially and scholastically for your child. Should you need references, feel free to get in touch with me.
In the meantime, brush up on your arts and crafts skills and see if this doesn’t help bring some sunshine into your little girl’s life.