Dear Abby: Our teen daughter has trouble making friends at school

Quiet and awkward, the girl hesitates to join in conversations and doesn’t get invited to parties.

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DEAR ABBY: My daughter is in eighth grade at a small private school. The problem is, she doesn’t have any friends there. Away from school she makes friends easily. But around classmates she has known for years, she’s quiet and awkward. She isn’t invited to parties or other fun activities.

She wants to make friends and join in conversations but doesn’t know how. (I’m no help. I had the same problem at her age.) Her dad and I tell her high school will be easier, but she doesn’t want to wait. Do you have something that might help her? — MOM OF AN OUTSIDER IN MISSOURI

DEAR MOM: By the time seventh grade rolls around, “cliques” have usually solidified, and the members are not generous about admitting outsiders. I agree that things will improve when your daughter gets into high school. As freshmen, everyone starts out on equal footing, and because classes are larger and students are funneling in from other schools, there’s more opportunity to meet new people. I speak from experience. I was excluded when I moved to a new school in seventh grade, and I know how it felt.

The subject of social dexterity has been in my column before because readers of all ages ask about it. It’s important to understand that few individuals are born socially adept. It’s a skill that must be learned, then polished until it becomes second nature. Part of being social is showing an interest in others. A smile is an excellent icebreaker, and one of the secrets of being charming is being a good listener.

The keys to being liked by both sexes are simple: Be kind. Be honest. Be tactful. Offer a compliment — but only if it’s deserved. Be well groomed, tastefully dressed and conscious of your posture. Confident individuals stand tall. Another useful icebreaker is to ask others what they think and be open to listening to their opinions. Be a good listener and people will think you’re a genius.

I publish a booklet, “How To Be Popular,” for people of all ages. It contains many other useful tips for polishing social skills. You can order one for your daughter by sending your name and address, plus a check or money order for $8 (U.S. funds), to: Dear Abby Popularity Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. Shipping and handling are included in the price.

Some people are anxious socially because they become so focused on their own insecurities, it distracts them from reaching out. The solution to that is: Concentrate on the OTHER person. If your daughter tries it, she will find that it works.

DEAR ABBY: One of my co-workers comes to work with different clothes all the time. I overheard her telling another co-worker she buys clothes, hides the tags, then returns them after she wears them. She said she avoids wearing perfume so the clothes don’t “smell.” She also pays cash. In my opinion, this is a form of stealing. Your thoughts? — WORKING WITH A THIEF

DEAR WORKING: I agree with you. While there is nothing you can do about it, it may comfort you to know that when this happens repeatedly, some stores refuse to sell more items to the perpetrator.

Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Contact Dear Abby at or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.

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