playing by herself at school - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 6 Old 08-30-2004, 08:07 PM - Thread Starter
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My 5-year-old DD started kindergarten two weeks ago. She went in knowing two other girls in the class--our next-door neighbor and another girl who she met at the park shortly before kindergarten started.

The first week and a half of school, she played with the next-door neighbor girl and another classmate. Then last Thursday, DD was "shut out." Told by Neighbor Girl that she couldn't play with her and the other classmate. DD's feelings were very hurt, we talked about it at home, and it was clear to me that DD didn't feel comfortable approaching any of the other children, including the girl from the park, and asking to join in.

In trying to help her, I did not dwell on Neighbor Girl's actions. Some of you who read my earlier posts know that I would not be sorry if DD's relationship with NG dissolved completely, primarily because of NG's verbal-bullying behavior. Instead, I focused on how DD felt about playing alone, whether she wanted to join other kids' games. She said she'd been lonely and sad, so we did a little role playing to help prepare her for approaching other children.

On Friday, DD went to school with firm plans to invite the Park Girl to play. She did this, and came home with happy reports of playing in a large group of girls, some whose names she didn't know yet.

Today, though, she again played alone. She told me before she went to school that she planned to play alone; her report after school was that "It was fun playing alone." She's a kid who spends a lot of time inside her own creative head and she often gets "people tired" if she's with others for long stretches of time. She had an intense playdate yesterday afternoon with Park Girl and Neighbor Girl, so it's possible she really did crave some alone-time.

But I find myself feeling sorry for her, worrying about her being some social outcast. I suspect that I'm bringing my own anxieties to the table here. At 41, I'd hate to be standing alone at a party, looking like a social misfit. The volunteer schedules aren't out yet, so I've not yet been able to get into the classroom to SEE how she's faring. I'm hesitant to bother the teacher at this point to ask about it. So I thought I'd post this here and see if you mamas have any experience with this.
Do I need to get busy and start inviting more kids over for playdates so she'll know more kids on the playground, or should I just let her find her own way? I don't want her to be sad and lonely on the playground at school, but I also don't wish to fill her non-school time up with playdates with school friends. I'd rather diversify her social life by continuing to see her non-school friends and maintaining our family time.

Any thoughts?
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#2 of 6 Old 08-30-2004, 08:19 PM
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I personally would not be overly concerned if she is happy. It sounds like she is a classic "introvert" in the Myers-Briggs continuum, and that you may be more of an "extrovert". So while she is o.k. playing by herself and getting her energy from within, you may be more comfortable being with others and getting your energy from outside (to us the MB terminology). It doesn't mean she will alway play by herself, but if she had an intense playdate with Park Girl and Neighbor Girl, she may have needed some time to "recharge", and thus was happy playing by herself.

I guess if it were me, I would watch the situation and make sure your daughters needs are met, regardless of what they are (either to play with others or play alone). I think being a class volunteer is a great way of keeping tabs on it, without being too intrusive .

Mama to three small people; wife to one big person; pet-person to cats and dogs..."Be the change you want to see in the world"-- Gandhi
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#3 of 6 Old 08-31-2004, 09:27 PM
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WOW! I followed your other thread closely and all I have to say is that Neighbor Girl is a piece of work!

Of course, her behavior is the classic aggressive girl behavior mentioned in Odd Girl Out. I'll bet she starts bringing little trinkets and gifts next..... UGH!

You really are doing great though. And just like before, you know exactly how to handle it and are doing a superb job.

Just keep role playing! I do that with my kids all the time. And it works! If you keep role playing then your dd will be comfortable enough to find the words when the time comes.

Good Luck!

Sorry you are having to deal with this (AGAIN)

Trying to do the right thing with three kids and a hubby. 
ds23, dd21, ds20
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#4 of 6 Old 08-31-2004, 10:27 PM
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Wow, this is a situation very near and dear to my heart since my very introverted 5-yr-old also started kindergarten this year.

It sounds like you did an AWESOME job handling the situation. I agree that you should try hard not to worry. It sounds like you have raised a very confident girl who is confident enough to find a group of girls to play with when she needs the social interaction and is fine playing alone when she needs to recharge. If only all kids had her self esteem then our schools would be awesome places, wouldn't they? Great job, mom.

My dd didn't know anyone on her first day but came home that same day with a new friend. The friend is really awesome, very similar to my dd in temperament and quite a delightful little girl. The only problem at first was that the new friend did know some of the other kids in the school, so at recess she ran off to play with them, leaving my dd alone. DD was sad at being left but also was ok playing alone. DD's teacher is awesome, so I asked her to observe the situation and let me know her thoughts, which she did. I was very grateful. We also talked to dd and discussed some of her options, talked about what might be going through her new friend's mind, etc. By the end of the first week, my dd and her new best friend were playing together at recess the entire time. The new friend must have decided that she could play with her neighborhood friends almost any time but only with my dd at recess. Since then they've added another cute little girl to their group and even befriended a little boy who seems to really want to hang out with them.

It was SO hard for me to watch her go through all of this "drama" and not be able to assist in any way. But I am SO proud of her for how she handled it.
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#5 of 6 Old 09-03-2004, 04:04 PM - Thread Starter
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Thanks for all the replies. I did something this week that I recommend every parent do at some point: I went to the school and spied. The kindergarten playground is right out front, so I was able to park, nose in, and sit there like I was at a drive-in movie with a broken speaker, watching the action but unable to hear what anyone was saying. It was tremendously educational!

DH spied on her one day, too. Rode by during his bike ride and the kids happened to be out. So he hid behind a tree (probably looked like Chester the Potential Molester--I told him I hoped he didn't wear his trench coat) and watched while DD played ball with a boy classmate.

We discovered that DD was far from ALONE on that playground. Both days, she spent a few minutes by herself, obviously comfortable being a horse or singing a song. She played with a group of girls she'd been chatting with at the snack table, she played on the structure with another group of kids, she bounced a ball with the nice boy she's made friends with, she hung out at the drinking fountain with Park Girl. Best of all, she did not appear to even be interested in joining Neighbor Girl's soccer group (where there appeared to be a bit of strife--one girl appeared to be being sent away, shoulders hunched, by NG while NG held hands with a third girl). DD talked to her teachers a bit--obviously telling them some story, complete with animated hand motions that seemed to make them smile. She obviously is comfortable talking to them, with approaching her classmates, with playing by herself, with being approached by her classmates. She was friendly with NG--sat next to her at the snack table--but was not at all joined with her at the hip. This is exactly the scene I hope to see continue. We want to be friendly, but not too close, with these neighbors. Honestly, as I watched those 32 kids, I only saw two groups that concerned me: NG's soccer threesome, and a large group of roughhousing boys who got reprimanded by the teachers for what appeared to be ganging up on a smaller boy. Otherwise, all the kids just seemed to be fluidly changing activities and playmates, alternately hooking up with each other, ignoring each other, wandering around alone. Most of them were by no means sophisticated.

My own DD is very inexperienced with the playground scene, and I think that has colored her view of things somewhat. She's come home absolutely horrified by some of the behavior she has seen. She didn't attend preschool, and her playmates and playdates have been pretty strictly ruled by DH and me. So for her to see kids telling others they can't play, or pushing each other, or cutting in line, or tattling . . . well, these are behaviors that she's never been in much of a position to deal with, until now. And, believe me, I'm not sorry she's inexperienced. (For a highly sensitive kid like her, being 5 and dealing with this stuff is far better than being 3 or 4 and dealing with it.) But it does mean that we may be talking a lot more about playground social issues than other parents who had those talks when these kids were in preschool.

Fianna, I'm glad you replied--I think I remember from posts earlier this summer that your daughter's in a similar situation, coming into kindergarten without much in the way of preschool. I'm glad she's doing well!

And lab, yeah, I'm thinking I need to BUY a copy of Odd Girl Out if we're going to continue living next door to NG. (When I read it this summer, it was a library book.) I hate to pigeonhole a 5-year-old and hang a label on her, but the behavior I'm continuing to see makes me believe that we're best off staying a bit aloof.
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#6 of 6 Old 09-03-2004, 09:40 PM
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What a great idea to go spy! I've always wanted to do that but I'm usually at work. I have found with my 4th grade ds and 1st grade dd that these things tend to ebb and flow a lot. Just when I start worrying about them, the whole thing seems to shift again. For my shyer dd, it has helped being part of Daisy Scouts (the thing before Brownies) so she could get to know a fairly large group of girls a little better; this way she feels comfortable approaching any of them if her choice for the day doesn't work out. Her problem is that there is another girl who tries to dominate her and 'make' her play with her everyday when dd might make a different choice. But I suppose that is another thread!!


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