HomeHealth & BehaviorBehavior & Discipline

Ask the Experts

My Daughter Does Not Share or Play Well with Others

By Debra Collins, Family therapist


My second-grader has difficulty sharing and playing with others. She seems almost angry. There has been a lot going on in her life over the past year. I also notice that she tries to do things on her own and not in front of others. It's as if she is worried about being embarrassed. Is this typical second-grade behavior or something I should get outside help with?


Developmentally, second-graders have a strong need to belong and feel accepted by their peers and family. Children this age are easily hurt by ridicule and criticism. This might be why she is sensitive about doing things in front of others. Some common things that children are self-conscious about are:

  • Speaking or reading aloud, especially if they have learning challenges.
  • Writing, drawing or other physical activities; especially if there are difficulties with motor skills.

Find out what she is avoiding and under what circumstances to better support her and help her feel more confident doing those tasks.

You stated "There has been a lot going on in her life over the past year." Since I don't know what has occurred, it's difficult to fully discern whether her response to those circumstances is age- appropriate and understandable. For example, her "anger" might be reasonable, but some guidance might help her express it more productively.

How do her peer relationships and academic performance differ from last year? How does her teacher view her? A child her age typically desires cooperation and group alliance. You mention she is having problems sharing and playing with others; this might be an indication that she needs more support from her peers. Find out if there are friendship groups at your daughter's school. Friendship groups are groups that create a safe place for children who are struggling with social skills and with making friends.

I think that often when parents ask themselves, "Should I get outside help?" they already have a sense that the answer is probably "yes." Your school counselor might be a good resource to help explore what options are available at school and in your community. Check with your insurance provider or county mental health agency to see if they offer providers. Make sure you meet alone with any therapist first to feel comfortable that this individual has experience with the issues you need guidance with, before introducing him to your child.

Debra Collins is a licensed marriage and family therapist and has worked in both primary and middle schools as a school counselor. She gives workshops to teachers and students and offers parenting classes in the San Francisco Bay Area. To learn more, visit her website.

Advice from our experts is not a substitute for professional diagnosis or treatment from a health-care provider or learning expert familiar with your unique situation. We recommend consulting a qualified professional if you have concerns about your child's condition.