A mother wrote to the Problem Solved columnist, Annalisa Barbieri about her daughter who is eight and another girl of the same age who has been a constant presence in her life since birth. They would often refer to each other as best friends and go to each other’s homes for play dates. The relationship seemed fractious at times, but was generally managed.
However, in the past couple of years, it has become clear that the girl does not want to be friends with the daughter who now feels very hurt by this. In conversations with her mother, she has said it makes her feel very sad, that it makes her not like herself, and that she wishes she didn’t exist. The mother asks if there is anything she can do to help her daughter stay resilient in the face of this situation. She is afraid it is making her daughter vulnerable to mental health problems in the future.
ACP member, Dr Sarah Sutton responds to the mother by wondering whether she is “picking up on something else and whether this brings up any ghosts for you”, adding that “the best hope for your daughter’s resilience is her relationship with you.”
“What you could say,” suggests Sutton, “is something to help her realise that what is going on isn’t about her, and to help her to look at ‘what else is going on here’ [in the situation]”.
The importance of repeating reassurance was stressed and that reinforcement can't happen overnight. “But hopefully, in time,” says Sutton, “your daughter will internalise your care of her, which is key to good mental health. If you can teach your little girl that this rejection is not about her – that is key to building her resilience.”
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