Saturday, 10 January 2015

Is your child lonely in school?

My daughter was lonely at school and it broke my heart. She is now 15 but in a time span of over four years from when she was 5 to the age of about of 9 years old she was a lonely little soul at school. They were horrible years and I was reminded of them today when I read this letter in The Guardian. When your child starts school you imagine their years ahead to be filled with being invited to birthdays, sleep overs and Easter bonnet making activities at someone's home. Instead, it didn't quite work out like that. 

For the first two years of her school life we invited all the children in her class over for birthday and Easter parties. In the third year we stopped doing this because I was forced to confront the reality that a self-imposed elite group of mothers had become firm friends and their daughters had followed likewise. This group quickly became the one that dictated their children's friendships and out of school activities. My daughter was excluded. I lose count of the number of times that my daughter would come out of school with a smiling face then cry when we were out of sight because some party invitation had been handed out and she was in the minority group who did not receive one. 

I spoke to the teachers who assured me that she was happy in class and doing well. My daughter wanted more and it was the parents who pulled the strings on that one. You may be wondering whether it was something my daughter did that put them off? The reality is that sometimes there is no fault on the victim's side. Remember the time when you were at school and you were ignored for no apparent reason? If you weren't then you are one of the lucky ones. A whole Hollywood industry has flourished based on the experiences of girls who were treated badly - Carrie, Romy and Michele's High School Reunion and Muriel's Wedding. 

Muriel's Wedding (1994) Poster

The mother who has written in The Guardian today is distraught at seeing her daughter's unhappiness. I don't blame her. The ups and downs of your child's life become your mantle as a mother. You wear their unhappiness especially when they are still dependent on you emotionally. It is heartbreaking that this child (referred to in the letter) does not laugh anymore or joke or sing or be silly. Her childhood is being taken from her by spitefulness. 

I have come across numerous other parents who are witnessing their children going through the same experiences. My advice is to be there for your child and never to belittle their sadness. However, be watchful for signs of your child being bullied. There is a fine line between a child being excluded from child's play and bullying. If it's the latter than take action by forcing the school to step up to their responsibilities. 

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