Maybe you’ve been there: Yours is the odd kid on the playground—always picked last, marginalized on the sidelines. Or maybe you have an “it” kid. She runs with the in crowd and plays only with those who shares the same interest in clothes, looks, popularity, sports, or money. As any kid will tell you, exclusion hurts. Elementary and middle school kids expend enormous amounts of time and emotional energy trying to fit in. But life inside a clique can be stressful also. Friends who let you into the group in the first place also can throw you out.
How to Help Your Child Cope with Cliques
- Respect your child's need to feel accepted. Remember: it's natural and developmentally appropriate for kids to want to be part of a group. Don't ridicule your child or discount what may seem to be an exaggerated desire to be included and liked.
- Encourage more than one peer group. Shoving all one's social currency in one bucket is risky. Help your child develop several groups of friends: schoolyard buddies, neighborhood playmates, and pals from after-school activities. Belonging to several groups will help your child see himself in more than one light.
- Help your child develop social skills. Urge your son or daughter to form friendships by listening to, and empathizing with, all his buddies—and to be kind, open, and honest with friends.
- Support individuality. Encourage your youngster to value herself as a unique and worthwhile person. Remind her that appearance, personality, and interests bring something special to the world that nobody else can duplicate.
- Don't buy into in-crowd values. Resist becoming so invested in your child’s social life that you actually believe having the "right" toys, shoes, or fancy birthday party will buy acceptance. That usually doesn’t work.
- Help your child look beyond the moment. Let your youngster know that the values, abilities, and strengths that other kids may not appreciate now are likely to be valued by peers in high school or college.
- Encourage your child to be inclusive. Urge her to make other kids in her class feel valued, call the new kid in class, or get to know the child who often sits alone.
- Seek advice from professionals. A teacher may be able to identify a child or group whose friendship your son or daughter can cultivate. If your child has trouble forming friendships or fitting into a variety of groups over time, talk to a professional who can help your child develop social skills.