Friendship vs. Grades
By Clarice J. Kestenbaum, M.D.
Q: We recently moved from the city to a suburban neighborhood. My 9-year-old daughter has no friends in her new school and is getting bad grades. How can I help her understand that friends don't matter and grades are what count?
A: Moving to a different home environment is stressful for everyone. Changing schools is particularly difficult for fourth graders, when friendships have been established for several years. The academic requirements, moreover, may be different from these of the former school. While we adults may believe that academic achievement should be first priority, children suffer when they aren't accepted by their peers. Popularity may be their first priority. Obviously, both are important if your daughter is to feel comfortable in the new setting.
Speak first to her teachers to understand the academic requirements at the new school. Determine whether there are gaps in your daughter's knowledge of math or her reading skills. She may need testing or tutoring until she catches up.
On the social scene, you need to find out whether your daughter is being scapegoated or simply ignored by her peers and whether there are some girls who could be potential friends. If the teacher has no relevant information, ask the guidance counselor or school psychologist to intervene. During this period of change, be very understanding of your daughter's concerns. Lectures about the importance of good study habits versus friendships will very likely fall on deaf ears.