Helping Kids Cope with Cliques
Your 10-year-old daughter comes home crying because the girls she’s been friends with are suddenly leaving her out and spreading rumors about her. She’s confused because it seemed to happen out of the blue. She doesn’t know what she did wrong and is nervous about returning to school, unsure if she has any friends. You’re unsure how to help her – you’ve heard a lot about kids being snubbed or teased at school, but you didn’t think it could happen to your outgoing, fun kid.
Cliques are often at their most intense in grades 6 – 9 but problems with cliques can start as early as 4th and 5th grades.
- How Parents Can Help
- As kids navigate friendships and cliques, there’s plenty parents can do to offer support. If your child seems upset, or suddenly spends time alone when usually very social, ask about it.
- Here are some tips:
- Talk about your own experiences. Share your own experiences of school cliques have been around for a long time! Ask the teacher for their perspective on what is going on.
- Help put rejection in perspective. Remind your child of times he or she has been angry with parents, friends, or siblings and how quickly things can change.
- Shed some light on social dynamics. Acknowledge that people are often judged by the way a person looks, acts, or dresses, but that often people act mean and put others down because they lack self-confidence and try to cover it up by maintaining control.
- Find stories they can relate to. Many books, TV shows, and movies portray outsiders triumphing in the face of rejection and send strong messages about the importance of being true to your
- own nature and the value of being a good friend, even in the face of difficult social situations.
- Foster out-of-school friendships. Get kids involved in extracurricular activities (if they aren’t already) art class, sports, martial arts, horse riding, or any activity that gives them an opportunity to create another social group and learn new skills.
Encouraging Healthy Friendships
Here are some ways to encourage kids to have healthy friendships and not get too caught up in cliques:
- Find the right fit, don’t just fit in. Encourage kids to think about what they value and are interested in, and how those things fit in with the group. Ask questions like: What is the main reason you want to be part of the group? What compromises will you have to make? Is it worth it? What would you do if they insist you act mean to other kids or do something you don’t want to do? When does it change from fun and joking around, to teasing and bullying?
- Stick to your likes. If your child has always loved to play the piano but suddenly wants to drop it because it’s deemed “uncool,” discuss ways to help resolve this.
- Keep social circles open and diverse. Encourage kids to be friends with people they like and enjoy from different settings, backgrounds, ages, and interests. Model this yourself as much as you can with different ages and types of friends and acquaintances.
- Speak out and stand up. If they’re feeling worried or pressured by what’s happening in the cliques, encourage your kids to stand up for themselves or others who are being cast out or bullied. Encourage them not to participate in anything that feels wrong, whether it’s a practical joke or talking about people behind their backs.
- Take responsibility for your own actions. Encourage sensitivity to others and not just going along with a group. Remind kids that a true friend respects their opinions, interests, and choices, no matter how different they are. Acknowledge that it can be difficult to stand out, but that ultimately kids are responsible for what they say and do.
- Remember to provide the big-picture perspective too. As hard as cliques might be to deal with now, things can change quickly. What’s more important is making true friends, people they can confide in, laugh with, and trust. And the real secret to being “popular”, in the truest sense of the word, is for them to be the kind of friend they’d like to have: respectful, fair, supportive, caring, trustworthy, and kind. “Kids Health”
Linda Campbell School Counsellor
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