The playground can feel like a very lonely place, so it’s extremely distressing to discover that our children are having friendship problems and even more worrying to think they may be being bullied, but the two don’t necessarily go together.
Some children prefer to be on their own at playtime. It is down time after the hustle and bustle of the classroom, a chance to gather thoughts, daydream, or just be. Before embarking on measures to help a child mix, it’s always worth checking to see whether this is the case. If a child wants to play with other children but can’t find a way in, she may need some support from the school.
Talk to the teacher
A chat with your child’s class teacher is always a good place to start, as she may not be aware that there’s a problem. All schools should have systems in place to help support your child. Playing nicely and making sure no one feels left out is covered in the classroom as part of the PSHE syllabus, but sometimes it is necessary for an adult to regularly remind the children to include everyone just before they go out to play.
Some schools operate a buddy system, where peers are trained to spot playground problems and help children who don’t have anyone to play with. Adult-led games are a fantastic way of ensuring inclusion. I have on many occasions started up a game with a lone child and very quickly we are surrounded by others who want to join in. Sometimes setting up a circle of friends, which is a structured method of getting children to help each other with adult supervision, may help.
Dealing with bullying
Every school should have an anti-bullying policy, which ideally will extend to more subtle issues, such as exclusion, as well as more overt hitting, name-calling etc. With the right measures in place, children can be helped to develop friendships and this will stop the playground feeling so lonely.