Yep. Been there with my now 15 year old. *It can get better!* I actually have never written a response to one of these, but truly felt your pain. It’s absolutely heart wrenching. Now my daughter has two groups(!) of friends. Not that my methods will work for everyone, but here’s what we did:
1. Exactly what dnunez said, I looked for activities that would match my daughter’s interests. Mine ended up in a local children’s theater group. She only did one musical with them, but it was enough for her to understand that she would find “her people”. I still have her in activities that she’s interested in, and perfect example, she started a volunteer opportunity this week and it’s all girls her age. I told her to scope the room for “her people”…sure enough, there was another girl there with a NASA t-shirt on. My daughter went over and struck up a conversation. Nothing big, just, “hey I like your shirt!”.
2. In the beginning, I arranged play dates for her and I orchestrated pretty much everything. For my daughter, when her ADHD is getting out of hand, I can hear it in her voice. So I would ask her to come speak to me if I knew she was getting annoying. (I hate to say it that way, but…) I would have her take deep breaths and tell her to look at the other kids’ faces. She needs to read the other kids’ faces and see if she needs to tone it down. I also set up activities where my daughter would have limited exposure – like, taking them to a movie, so that they could have fun together but it wasn’t an overwhelming period of time and she wasn’t up in their faces.
3. When the neighborhood kids started coming around, I would literally do anything to keep them at our house. “Who wants pizza?!” Became my Friday night mantra. Yeah, it’s a bit of a bribe. But I figured it wasn’t time for me to stand on a moral high horse. I bought glow sticks. And water balloons. And light up balloons. And shaving cream for our swingsey slide to make it crazy. They played Ghost in the Graveyard and ate s’mores. And the running around was so good for my daughter.
4. Now, we literally talk all the time. We’re at the age where she’s learning about more mature themes…the difference between black and white is pretty wide. We talk a lot about shades of grey (maybe use paint strip color samples as a demo tool?) and how making choices isn’t as easy as “yes or no” or “on or off”. We literally have social coaching mini sessions at least once a day. Maybe write on a paint strip…good friend at one end, bad friend at the other, and fill in in between so she can see that even nice friends can be inconsiderate from time to time.
I’m lucky because mine still talks to me. I am also blessed to have someone that’s still willing to listen. But I definitely think there’s a lot of hope. We had some really, really tough years. I would say 3-5th grades were the absolute toughest. Things started looking up in 6th grade, and 7th and 8th were great. The summer between middle and high school, she went away to two camps, and went through a huge maturation period. She just finished her freshman year – with literally two groups of friends.
I wish you good luck. I’ve been there and I know it hurts you just as much if not more. Best wishes.