teenage friendship worries — Scope | Disability forum
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teenage friendship worries

mj01 Community member Posts: 3 Listener
edited August 2022 in Cerebral palsy
My wonderful daughter has CP and is now 17 years old and will soon be starting her final year of sixth form before heading off to university. For all that she is a seemingly happy and content girl, there lies beneath her smiling exterior a lonely, slightly lost, teen. And I just don't know what I can do to help her (hence being awake and typing this well after midnight...).

From each transition period to the next (first school, middle, high school) I've said to myself 'she will find someone..' yet no solid, lasting friendship ever materialises. I have tried through contact with the school, making friends with other parents, encouraging her to join youth clubs, extra curricular activities - nobody ever seems to have the patience to be her friend. And that is all it is - she walks slower, eats and talks slower, tires easily. Other than that she is just like any of the other girls her age. She loves make up, music, inappropriate clothing (!), boys (especially boys..) - and all she wants is one good friend to share her great sense of humour with.

We are extremely close and have a great relationship - she talks to me about most things that are on her mind. Except for this. She hates that I contact school about anything (I feel I have to fight her corner, sometimes forgetting she's 17..) so she always says everything is 'fine'. Until it emerged some younger boys had imitated her eating so she decided to have her lunch in the girls toilets (or throw it away). This came out when she had an angry moment when I questioned her about her lunch - she is very slim and I was concerned she wasn't eating lunch. This has now been sorted out but the fact remains she has nobody. 

Her, her 10 year old sister and I do lots of fun things together but when we're home she's just in her room, alone. I get that this is normal teen behaviour but she spends so much time on her phone or watching Netflix. She admitted this evening that she's a little jealous of her sister having so many friends. I feel she should be having the time of her life - the whole summer stretched out before her - but what life is it just to have days out with your mum and little sister? She has one friend who she has known since nursery (we moved 20 miles away when she was 10) and they keep in touch via text but her friend is never able to meet up, she's always 'got something on'. I am friendly with her mum and I try to arrange lunches together or a coffee or shopping but it's only ever with us all together, she never meets her one on one.

What can I do to help? Will things change at university? Are people more mature and therefore more accepting and patient? Her confidence is deteriorating in front of me and I don't know what I can do to help. I just can't bear the thought of her miles away at uni and being lonely. She is so wonderfully funny, not to mention kind and loyal. Anyone would be lucky to call her their friend but it just seems other kids her age see her disability and don't bother. I'm afraid that, due to her lack of confidence, she's just not 'putting herself out there' and she really needs to. Any advice would be so appreciated. Even if it's just that I need to back off and it will sort itself out!



  • Sue_Alumni
    Sue_Alumni Scope alumni Posts: 486 Pioneering

    Good morning mj01

    Thank you for sharing your thought with us and you must have so mixed feeling around your daughter.  You are obviously so proud of her and everything she has achieved but also deeply anxious how she will cope with her final year at school with the stresses of exams compounded with friendship issues.

    I’m not going to tell you not to worry or back off– I don’t think that is something mums can do even when we should and we tend to internalise our own anxiety as I think you are doing. I also think you should trust your gut instinct and if you sense something isn’t quite right then something probably isn’t. I think it’s quite healthy not to have one close friend but it’s a shame that she feels she isn’t included in other friendship groups.  Is it the other children who are excluding her or has your daughter been made to feel self-conscious about her conditions so she declines any invitations to take part? Would you daughter be open to exploring ways to help her build her self-confidence? What is she interested in – art, photography, animals? Sometimes friends turn up when we least expect them, and we make friends not in organised groups but when we are involved in activities we enjoy.

    Do have a look around this forum and especially have a look at these pages about making friends and maintaining friendships and support for parents. I’m also hoping that your post will be read by other parents who have similar experiences to yours and those with children who have made a successful transition from school to university.    

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  • Biblioklept
    Biblioklept Community member Posts: 4,195 Disability Gamechanger
    I think as kids get older and mature in university and things like this sort of stuff gets easier. At university most people won't have anyone else there that they know and will be looking for friends and connections too. Are there any groups related to her interests around you? 
  • mj01
    mj01 Community member Posts: 3 Listener
    Thank you both for your kind words.
    My daughter is planning on studying for a degree in Graphic Design so her interests tend to be art/design based. However, she struggle with her fine motor skills and its the computer based art that she's into, as well as photography.
    Her confidence has suffered a set back and she's so reluctant to start any clubs or groups - in fact it's got to the point where she's so self conscious that she won't even order for herself in a cafe or restaurant any more.
    I've suggested so many things to her - I even found a fantastic online community called CP Teens where she could chat to people her own age and even attend social days. She was absolutely furious with me - she is very unwilling to discuss her disability and said 'I want to forget I've got this so why on earth would I want to meet other people like me?' which was so distressing as I have always told her that her disability doesn't define her - it's just a part of who she is. It never used to hold her back when she was younger, she was always so determined to try anything and everything, even climbing mountains in the Lake District, no matter how long it took.
    How can I encourage her to get out there and try some clubs without sounding like a bossy mum who's trying to 'make' her do something? I want her to feel proud of herself again, rather than embarrassed about being a little bit different, which is how she appears now.


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