"No one likes me," your child says, and something in her tone makes you stop what you're doing and look at her closely. You can see the tears, the set chin, the pain. And you've never felt more useless as a parent.
Fortunately, there are some practical things you can do to help your offspring through the difficult years of childhood.
Address the obvious
Start with the things that are easiest to fix. Is your child's hygiene good? Sure, you send her to take a bath every day, but does she do a good job? Sometimes, kids need a little help to understand the Joy of Soap and Shampoo. A great haircut can also make a difference -- consider the way you feel when you walk out of the salon.
Are her clothes clean, and are they more or less what the other kids are wearing? There's no reason to spend hundreds of dollars on a wardrobe soon-to-be outgrown, but consider investing in a few confidence-building items that let your child blend in with the other kids. Individual style is also great -- but your kid needs serf-esteem to pull it off. Consider a more traditional look in the short-term.
Does your child have a disability that makes it difficult to relate to other kids? Is she just plain socially awkward? Meet with a school psychologist or someone your pediatrician recommends to get more information if you need to. Resist the urge to diagnose your child via the Internet. Research is great, but there's a reason med school costs a lot of money.
If there's a disability in play, work with a therapist who can help your child learn to find the social cues she's been missing. Tap into local volunteer programs that pair your child with one or two peers on a weekly basis. Go back to the school and solicit help in identifying a child or two you can trust to help your own child navigate the treacherous hallways.
Help her find success
If your child truly has no friends, your goal shouldn't be to get her to the pinnacle of popularity in two weeks. Rather, you want to help her find one or two good
friends who will be there for her over the long term.
If school isn't the place where she's finding happiness, look into outside activities. A church or synagogue youth group, a drama club, or a sports team can be good choices -- if your child is interested. If she can create the circle of support she needs somewhere else, the school hours will be more bearable.
Consider creative solutions
The only bad idea is to ignore the problem and trust it will disappear. Short of that, pretty much anything goes. Homeschooling, switching schools, even moving are not entirely outside the realm of possibility. No, you don't have to uproot your entire family to make your child happy. But you do need to think outside the box and truly consider all your options.
Be your child's support while she needs you. Let her know that you care, and that you're looking for ways to solve the problem. You can find a way to work through this, and this, too, shall pass.