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Daughter Spends Too Much Time Alone

Toddler and Teenager Expert Advice from Carleton Kendrick, Ed.M., LCSW

Q: I have a very bright 11-year-old who excels in school and creative projects, but seems to be perfectly happy being alone most of the time. It has been 2 years since she has asked anyone over to play or to spend the night. Normal, kids' activities "bore" her.

I worry about her interpersonal skills. How can I encourage her to make real friends and do social activities -- not related to school, church, 4H or scouts (some of which she participates in only because we have told her she has to for a certain time frame). I feel like she may have a very lonely future.

A: The good news is that your daughter has the ability to be happy on her own, engaged in activities of her own initiation. That is a personality trait that will hold her in good stead in her life. However, I think your concern about her social development is warranted. I would ask her if there were any children with whom she might like to spend some time at home. I'd also ask her teachers and the adult leaders of her activities how she interacts with other children. Does she ever initiate social contact? Do other children exclude her from games? Is she teased?

You do not describe her as being shy but as being disinterested or bored with the "normal" activities of kids her age. Does she enjoy the company of adults more than her peers? She doesn't have psychological or social problems merely because her preferences for activities might be different or more sophisticated from those of her peers. Being bored with what other kids do for play is very different than being anxious or frightened to interact with other children.

You night consider trying to find organizations and/or activities that more specifically match up with her most passionate interests, talents, and curiosities. She is most likely to find kindred spirits among groups of children who share similar interests. You might wish to consult with a therapist who sees kids you daughter's age to discuss her asocial behavior. I think you would benefit from a chance to fully discuss your daughter and to perhaps brainstorm with such a therapist about how to encourage a more active social life for her.

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Carleton Kendrick has been in private practice as a family therapist and has worked as a consultant for more than 20 years. He has conducted parenting seminars on topics ranging from how to discipline toddlers to how to stay connected with teenagers. Kendrick has appeared as an expert on national broadcast media such as CBS, Fox Television Network, Cable News Network, CNBC, PBS, and National Public Radio. In addition, he's been quoted in the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, USA Today, Reader's Digest, BusinessWeek, Good Housekeeping, Woman's Day, and many other publications.


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