By Evelyn Petersen, Local columnist
---- — Q: My 7-year-old daughter has no friends. It's probably because we had to move to a new community this summer and she just started school last month. I don't know other parents with kids her age.
The problem is her birthday is this Friday. This may be another birthday with no friends. She's not necessarily shy, but somehow she doesn't always connect with other friendly girls. I'm wondering if it would be wise to send a few invitations out to some girls in her new class for a birthday slumber party (which is what she really wants). Since she's only known these classmates for a few weeks, is this inappropriate? I was hoping this would break the ice. I feel like I have failed her somehow. All the other moms here seem to have kids with social circles and activities. — T.R.A. You're a good parent; you care a lot, and you have not failed her. I am assuming she's in a good school, and that you have met the teacher. Make an appointment with the teacher tomorrow (or e-mail her if e-mails are used in your school). At least call and speak with her on the phone. Ask for her help in choosing a few girls to come over next weekend with their moms for a simple birthday lunch. You can even tell them not to bring gifts, just cards, if you like. That's up to you.
If the teacher can't help you with other parents' contact information due to a policy about not sharing this information, at least ask for suggestions as to the names of a few girls to invite. Immediately write out simple notes of invitation including your own contact phone numbers and address, and have your child pass them out. (You could even go to the school with a "birthday treat" for the class, and pass out these few invitations yourself.)
Explain to your child that the sleepover she wants can come later next month, but right now that would not be comfortable for moms who do not yet know you and your child. You need to get acquainted first. At lunch, make pizza and let the girls add some toppings. Pizza is easy and everyone likes it. Have ice cream and cake but keep it simple ... just enjoy the girls and their moms.
You must also think about your child's special interests and talents and get her into a group where she will meet other friends with like interests. This could be 4-H or scouting or gymnastics; you will know best. Maybe there is even a church group you can both attend. These efforts will help her feel she's part of a group. Seven is an important year for friendships. Any efforts and time on your part will be time well spent.
One more thing: Some children need more help than others in making friends. Children are not born with this skill. You may need to teach her how to make friends. Tips: smile, always say "Hi" and use the other person's name, ask other children for advice (doing this is a form of compliment) and try to give another person at least one sincere compliment a day.
Evelyn Petersen is an award-winning parenting columnist and early childhood educator and author who lives in Traverse City; see her website at askevelyn.com. For more columns from Evelyn Petersen, visit record-eagle.com/askevelyn.