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Elementary School Expert Advice from Barbara Potts

Should I be concerned that a first-grade child (an only) shows signs of strong attachment to a classmate? She seems obsessed with how her friend dresses, eats, looks, etc. Her mom is upset since she has said that she "hates" her mom and wants to be like this friend. Her mom is concerned about the girls' self-esteem and would like to know whether or not this is a passing phase or something more serious.
First-graders become very attached to their peers and teachers, and may see them as perfect people. A: First-graders become very attached to their peers and teachers, and sometimes see them as perfect people. Moms may find out when they try to help with homework that since they don't do it like "Mrs. Smith," they don't know anything.

Children also learn very early that saying that they hate someone quickly pushes buttons, especially with parents. Encourage the mom to respond with something like, "I understand that you don't like what I did, but I still love you."

It sounds like the child you write about is taking this to the extreme. Suggest that the mom talk with the teacher to see what he or she has observed in the classroom. She could also talk with the school counselor and ask the counselor to spend some time with the girl.

This may be a phase that's over soon. But if these behaviors continue for a long period of time, the mom may want to consider therapy for her daughter. The school counselor or their pediatrician can help refer her to a therapist in the community.

Barbara Potts has worked as an elementary school counselor for many years. She has a BA in psychology from Wake Forest University, and an M.Ed. in Guidance and Counseling from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

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