HomeHealth & BehaviorSocial Skills

Ask the Experts

My Son Worries That His Friends Don't Like Him

By Debra Collins, Family therapist


My first-grader is very sensitive. He's always worried about not having any friends. He has lots of friends in his class. But if they disagree with him or refuse to share, he thinks that they are being rude and that they don't like him any more. The next day or five minutes later everything is fine.

But this worries him. I don't know how to assure him that they like him and just not to worry about this. Help me help him. I don't want him to grow up insecure and just a follower.


How wonderful that your son has lots of friends.More often we hear about trends of early aggression in boys, not camaraderie.

Your son is learning about peer relationships. It is difficult to navigate different temperaments and interaction styles. There is bound to be some conflict. It is common for children at his age to feel slighted and then have it blow over in five minutes.

But ask his teacher about his interactions. Teachers usually have a sense of age-appropriate behavior. You can also arrange play dates at home or other non-competitive socialization opportunities for more peer-interaction practice.

It is a natural reaction for a parent to want her child to be happy and successful in his relationships. However, sometimes our own fears about his well being may be misinterpreted by the child. Without knowing all the details, I can only give you what I think may be another contributing factor based on how you worded your question. You stated that your son is "very sensitive" and that you "don't want him to grow up insecure and just a follower." Is it possible that he has misinterpreted your reassurance? He may perceive people disagreeing with him or concerned about him as not liking him. An adult understands that you want your son to be resilient and independent, but a 6-year-old may view this as rejection.

Children at this age think in literal terms. If you think this may be a possibility, you might want to gently explore with him who else he fears may not like him when there are disagreements. Reassuring him about how you feel about him may straighten out any miscommunication and help him relax his concerns about not being likeable.

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.