Children still in kindergarten or even younger form cliques and intentionally exclude others. Social exclusion can take many forms, with children reporting a range of experiences from being deliberately excluded from a peer group to having rumours spread about them, being called names and being purposefully embarrassed. In any sense, social exclusion is fundamentally entails a lack of connectedness and participation from a peer group.
What can you do for your child when he or she is on the receiving end of a sudden deep freeze from former friends or exclusion from social settings?
- Make Time.
When kids are little, many parents are diligent about establishing a schedule, feeding times, naptimes, bath times, and bedtimes are all guided by the clock and directed by an adult. However, young people are exercising developmentally appropriate behaviour when they exert control over their own schedules. Too often, however, this control manifests itself in the frustrating fact that kids don’t want to talk to their parents at traditionally-scheduled times of the day. What’s important to know now is that when young people are hurting over their peer relationships, they are in need of support from adults.
- Help Her Cast a Wide Net.
Peer conflicts are very often context-specific. A child who is the target of social exclusion in her school may well find herself accepted and valued by her classmate or her playground friends. One of the simplest, yet most powerful prevention strategies for helping kids cope with friendship challenges is to encourage them to cast a wide net to seek out friendships both in their neighbourhood, at school, on a team, through a club etc.
- Help Kids Understand That a Friendship Breakup Is Not a Failure.
Parents play a key role in helping kids understand the inevitability of change in interpersonal relationships. In other words, it’s helpful to remind your child that a friendship breakup is not a failure, but rather a predictable (albeit painful) part of growing up.
- Don’t Take Any of It Personally.
Kids need to learn to manage their intense emotions and treat others respectfully at all times. If your child takes his pain out on you, be willing to look beyond her behaviour in the moment and empathically tune in to what is really driving her hurtful words and actions. When parents allow themselves to get distracted by surface misbehaviour, they push their children away at just the time that the young person needs to be held most closely.
- Make Use of Teachable Moments.
If there is a situation where you see your child being mistreated by a friend again and again, this is an opportunity to teach him or her what real friendship is all about. In this digital age, some kids start to believe that friendship is all about quantity instead of quality. Remind your child that a genuine friendship should leave him feeling good about himself.