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How to Help Kids Cope with Being Socially Excluded
When your child is left out by their peers, it’s painful for them – and for you, too. Social acceptance is very important to kids of every age, from preschoolers to teens, and no parent wants to see their child excluded. But almost every child will have to deal with rejection from time to time, so it’s essential to teach your kids good coping skills. You can help your kids deal with being left out by talking about the issue with them, helping them build good self-esteem, and encouraging them to develop healthy friendships.
Talking about Exclusion
Keep an eye on your child’s social life.Know who your child’s friends are, and ask about them occasionally. Notice whether your child expresses frustration or annoyance with someone in their social circle – it could be a sign that that person has hurt their feelings. Be aware of your child’s social habits, and observe whether anything changes.
- For instance, if your teenage daughter usually texts a friend multiple times a day, a sudden silence could mean something is amiss.
Be available if your child wants to talk.Let your child know that you’re always willing to listen to them. If your child comes to you with a social problem, give them your full attention. Don’t brush them off or dismiss their feelings.
- Wait for your child to initiate the conversation. If you try to make them talk to you before they’re ready, they will just clam up.
- You can also ask open ended questions to encourage your child to open up, such as “How was your day at school?”
Empathize with your child.Comfort your child by letting them know you understand how they’re feeling. Use active listening techniques and mirror what they are saying.
- For instance, if your son tells you his friends are leaving him out of games at recess, you could say, “It must make you feel really sad that your friends won’t let you play.”
Avoid trying to fix the situation immediately.Hold off on offering any advice, and don’t say anything bad about your child’s friends. Give your child a chance to resolve the issue themselves. The problem may go away by itself in a few days.
Helping Your Child Cope Emotionally
Help your child understand why they might be excluded.Provide some perspective on the rejection. Tell your child that most people are left out of a group at some point, and it doesn’t mean anything is wrong with them. If there’s an obvious reason your child has been excluded, help them understand why.
- For instance, if your daughter’s friend was only allowed to invite five people to her birthday party, explain that her friend simply couldn’t invite everyone she likes.
- It is common for children to blame themselves for being excluded. This can decrease their self-esteem over time, so it is important to address this and talk with them about other reasons why exclusion might happen.
Teach self-acceptance and dignity.If your child has an unshakeable sense of self-worth, being excluded won’t sting so much. Help your child learn to value themselves, instead of depending entirely on other people for validation. Talk to them about how to behave with dignity after being rejected by a peer.
- You can help your child accept themselves by teaching them to use positive self-talk instead of beating themselves up after a setback.
- Discourage your child from trying to get back at someone who rejected them.
- Teach your child how to praise themselves instead of looking for praise and validation from other people. It will help them to feel more confident in the long run.
Encourage your child to work on things they enjoy.Help your child get their mind off the rejection by encouraging them to pursue their individual interests. Make sure they have enough time, space, and resources to work on personal projects. If your child doesn’t have many hobbies, sign them up for a class or help them find a club to join.
- Developing a skill, like drawing or playing the guitar, can go a long way towards repairing a kid’s damaged self-esteem. Overcoming obstacles and accomplishing tasks helps children to build confidence and develop self-esteem.
Let your child know you’re rooting for them.While your praise can’t replace validation from your child’s peers, you can still help them feel good about themselves. When they do something well, give them a high-five or offer a few words of praise.
- For instance, say something like, “Michael, I’m proud of you for working so hard on your English paper. You really earned that A.”
- Don’t over-praise your child, or they might not take you seriously. Save your words for when you truly mean them.
Consider whether your child may be pushing people away.Pay attention to whether your child bosses others around, is a poor sport, or doesn’t stop when other people want them to. If so, they might be alienating their peers without realizing it. Help your child develop better social skills to improve their friendships.
- Role-playing or practicing different situations with your child is a good way to help them improve their social skills.
- For instance, if your child is a sore loser, you could play board games with them and coach them on the appropriate way to act when they lose.
- Your child may also benefit from joining an organization or club to build better cooperation and team building skills, such as the Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts of America.
Limit the amount of time your child spends on social media.Social media can make kids feel like everyone else is having fun without them, and it can even lower self-esteem.Set some reasonable limits on your child’s Facebook use, so they don’t stew over feeling left out 24/7.
- Help your child understand that appearances on social media don’t always reflect reality.
Get help for your child if they are struggling to cope.If your child is chronically excluded, or if they seem depressed, make them an appointment with a therapist. A professional will be able to help them deal with difficult feelings and improve their social skills, if necessary.
- A few signs of depression in kids include persistent sadness or crying, irritability, changes in sleeping or eating habits, and loss of interest in favorite activities.
Helping Your Child Make New Friends
Help your child understand what a true friend is.Talk with your child about what makes a good friend. Tell them that someone who purposely makes them feel bad or talks about them behind their back isn’t a real friend.
- Make sure your child understands the importance of being a good friend themselves.
Help your child brainstorm ways to deal with being left out.Teach your child to be proactive instead of reactive. Help them find ways to invite other children to do things. Work together to come up with some ideas for dealing with rejection and other social problems in the future. Make a list of your ideas, so your child can refer to it later.
- For instance, if your shy child feels left out on the playground, maybe they could try befriending another child who is playing alone.
Help your child make new friends.Get your child involved in social activities outside school, such as a sports team, youth group, or club. Kids are less likely to feel ostracized and lonely when they have different groups of friends.
- Inspire your child to cast a wide net when it comes to finding friends, looking in the neighborhood, religious or spiritual groups, school, and community organizations.
Encourage your child to spend time with positive people.Not just any "friend" will do. In some cases, children may pretend to be a child's friend when they are in fact teasing or bullying them. Help your child figure out what it feels like to be in a true friendship in which they are accepted and valued.
- You might discuss their friendships with several people and ask them to describe them. Highlight the ones they mention that allow them the freedom to be themselves without judgment.
- Encourage your child to nurture these relationships. Being comfortable in their own skin will help them attract friends with similar interests and views.
- You can also show them examples of what healthy friendships look like using videos and books.
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