Dad Peter shares the friendship cul de sac his daughter found herself in during lockdown and reflects on what they tried to do to help and how they plan to support her going forward.
When schools went into lockdown, pupils’ social situations were ‘frozen’. Whatever friends they did or didn’t have at that point, they were stuck with, as it’s so difficult to make new friends while in lockdown. If they had joined a new school and hadn’t made many friends in the year, they were stuck.
This was particularly true for our daughter in year 7 (but perhaps also for children who moved or joined a new school in Year 9 or Year 12). She had felt overwhelmed starting ‘big school’ and had spent the first term mostly eating her lunches in the library to avoid the daunting prospect of having to put herself out there and make new friends.
It seemed to her that all the noisy throngs of kids roaming around at lunch were already solid cliques, everyone had already found groups and new, strong friendships except her and it created a downward confidence spiral that she never regained control of. Hence opting for the solitude and comfort of the library. Then lockdown happened.
For our daughter (and perhaps more for year 7s because of the great shake up of new schools and larger year groups) she hadn’t formed strong enough bonds with new friends to create and continue meaningful friendships during lockdown.
It’s a situation that we’ve noticed, through talking to other parents, is more common than you might think.
There’s no easy solution to resolve this now but here’s what we tried and what we’ve learned:
We now find ourselves indebted to collaborative games like Minecraft and Roblox, which they can play whilst talking to each other, either about what they are doing in the game or about each other’s lives. This has been a lifesaver for our daughter, who has now spent many (perhaps too many) hours with a variety of friends on these games.
Those breaktimes in the library have resulted in her feeling an isolation in lockdown that could’ve possibly been avoided. Her reasons for doing this were understandable – commendable even, in parts - a combination of diligence – she wanted to get her homework done; shyness – she has a real lack of confidence in going up to and meeting new people, especially when they’re in groups, and feelings of awkwardness at conducting small talk which she has always struggled with.
As we talked this through with her, she realises spending so little time with other people means that they haven’t missed her company when school closed.
We’ve also tried to find strategies to help her in school such as doing teamwork with people she doesn’t know well to broaden her friendship groups. We’ve also agreed she will make a real effort to spend breaks socialising rather than hiding and will join clubs with a lot of people in them so that she makes more social connections when she finally gets back to school.
Fingers crossed, unlike the more familiar saying, we’re hoping it’s never too late to make a second impression.