That first day of school: an exciting occasion for many children but, regrettably, a time of dread for some students. What's the problem? The task challenge of making friends and trying to be popular-an important part of a child's education but an experience that isn't always an easy or successful one.
That first day of school: an exciting occasion for many children but, regrettably, a time of dread for some students. What’s the problem? The task challenge of making friends and trying to be popular-an important part of a child’s education but an experience that isn’t always an easy or successful one.
“Friends affect the quality of life the most,” said Barbara J. Howard, MD, co-director of the Center for Promotion of Child Development Through Primary Care in Baltimore, Md., during a presentation on behavior problems in school age children today at the AAP’s National Conference and Exhibition.
During late elementary-school years, children often talk about making friends and being popular; they are eager to be friendly, but not a pushover. Dr. Howard explained that school-age children fall into one of six categories: victim (shy, sensitive, and exhibiting passive behavior); bully (limited academic or social skills and possibly from a dysfunctional family); member of a clique; “left out,” often because of poor social skills or being victimized by discrimination; follower (giving into pressure to engage in substance or alcohol abuse or sexual activity); and under high pressure to perform well in school and in sports.
In cooperation with the efforts of parents, you can offer counsel to help your patients who have a difficult time fitting in or making friends at school (or both). Here’s how to set the stage for offering assistance:
“Ultimately, it is the child’s problem to solve,” Dr. Howard said. “You can’t fix these things.” She emphasized, however, that you can assist a child in overcoming his problems by building up his strengths; by providing positive role models and opportunities for self-expression; and by encouraging him to pursue interests outside the school day and the school peer group.