How To Help Your Child Deal With Cliques

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Growing up I always had a best friend. Whether it was my next-door neighbor through the majority of my elementary school experience or the girl down the street when I was a tween and teen, close friends were always a huge part of my childhood.

While I always had a core person, there were other people that floated in and out to make us a group, or a squad – if you want to use today’s language.

I never considered us a clique because I never really considered us the cool kids nor was there one “leader” or ever purposely exclude other kids.

cliques - The Everyday Mom Life



However, as I watch my daughter today – just entering first grade – I already see groups of friends starting to form and I see some activity that I find tremendously unsettling as a future predictor of the girls’ actions.

Merriam-Webster defines cliques as a narrow, exclusive circle or group of persons, especially one held together by common interests, views or purposes.

That simplifies it a bit. Anyone who has ever seen them in action knows that It can be very hurtful to be outside a clique, and, at the same time, it can be very hurtful to be inside too.

In an article from kidshealth.org, cliques are described as groups of friends that leave other kids out on purpose and says there may be a ringleader or two that decides who is in and who is out.

I can already see a ringleader among my daughter’s friends. We’ve also had days in kindergarten when she would come home and tell me about how so-and-so didn’t want to play with her that day or said she couldn’t play with them.

While cliques are most commonly seen among girls, boys of all ages can experience them too. Boys will establish themselves through athletics, being tough or being funny, said Leah Davies an educator and counselor with 44 years of experience in an article for KellyBear.com. While girls are generally more concerned about being liked and will be impacted more strongly by rejection.

In all honesty, it breaks my heart hearing that my daughter and other young kids are already experiencing this and while I’ve given her some tips, I wanted to be really prepared for the school year knowing what the future holds.




I know it’s going to get worse before it gets better and I wanted to be able to give her the tools to help deal with what she will be experiencing – now and in the future.

While my research into this was spurred by my elementary school-aged daughter, the tips below would be applicable to girl and boy cliques in middle school and high school.

Understand your child’s need to be accepted

It is 100 percent normal for your child to want to feel accepted and to be part of a group. Groups give us support and encouragement. Groups have our back when the going gets tough. Groups are a part of the social structure of society. Exclusion from societal groups hurts as an adult so of course it hurts as a child – probably 10-fold.

Knowing this, don’t discount your child’s feelings when they come to you and tell you they’re being excluded. Feel grateful they’re coming to you and help them learn to deal with their feelings. Listen to them with an open heart. Give them the tools to help them understand why they are being treated poorly (and yes, there may be no good reason) and to cope.

Encourage them to have multiple circles of friends

A friend of mine in high school always had friends at school and then she had a separate set of friends at church. The two streams of friendship only crossed occasionally. Other than that, she had two places to turn when one started making her feel badly.

I’m not sure she knew it at the time (or even now, really), but I always thought this was so smart of her in school. I know it probably wasn’t choice she consciously made, and more than likely it’s something that happened due to her parents’ choices. Still, I always thought she was lucky to have separate groups of friends.

Similar to my friend, encourage your child to have social circles outside of the classroom. Sure, kids spend a lot of their days in school but giving your child multiple opportunities to make separate groups of friends can be important. If they’re having a rough day with people at school, ask a friend from church or an outside-of-school club to come over and hang out on a Saturday afternoon. Sometimes one person can make a world of difference.

Support your child being an individual

Everybody wants this right? Today it’s all about encouraging people to just “be you. Do you.” That’s a really hard thing for most people. I know plenty of adults that can’t be themselves half the time so telling a kid that might be something that’s difficult for them to grasp.

Take it a step further. Encourage their talents. Explain to them why having that talent – that might make them different from other people – can be a good thing and why it makes them special. Explain why just being themselves is important…and special.

Help your child form their own ideas and opinions – independent of the group

At 5-years-old, I remember always wanting to do everything my best friend wanted to do. She was a year older and I wanted to be just like her. Sometime around 9, that changed.

She liked Donnie Wahlberg of New Kids On The Block (Yes, you read that right.) and I told her I did too. As time went on though, I realized I really liked Joey. I was terrified to tell her, thinking she would be mad. When I did, she just said, “Ok,” and we went about our day. Since she was my best friend, she got it. We weren’t in a larger group but it still didn’t impact the fact that I believed I needed to like the same things and same person she liked.

Teach your child to believe that they don’t always have to follow the crowd when it comes to their opinions and beliefs. Peer pressure is tough in high school, but I’ve already seen it factoring into to elementary school in small ways from the toys they all want, to the clothes they wear and how they want to do their hair.

Group mentality is strong. If you can teach your child that it’s ok to go against the grain and decide what they like and believe, you’ll teach them a lesson for life about fitting in standing out.



Encourage empathy and inclusion

These two pieces of the humanity puzzle are perhaps the greatest gifts you can give your child. Teaching them how to understand and be mindful of someone else’s feelings will give them character and compassion. Teaching them to include new people will ensure they are never lonely.

These two actions go hand-in-hand to me because often kids are being excluded from cliques. Today you’re in, tomorrow you’re out – especially if you disagree. Teaching children that exclusion is wrong and making them mindful of that person’s feelings when it happens could be a game changer for those being excluded.

You never know which actions you take today will impact someone’s happiness tomorrow. Teaching empathy and inclusion teaches our kids to always make a positive impact.

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31 COMMENTS

  1. Cliques can be such a tough lesson to go through as a child, and yes, even as an adult! It’s amazing how many adult cliques there are! I always try to teach my kids to be aware of other kids feelings so that they don’t see themselves forming their cliques too! And sometimes, it’s just one day at a time. Tough post but great points! Especially heading back into the school year.

  2. My son is starting a new school this year and this is definitely something that concerns me! Really great advice for parents everywhere as they tackle the new school year!

  3. We tried really hard to highlight empathy and inclusion when our daughter experienced this in preschool last year. Preschool! I wasn’t expecting for her to come home and tell me that a girl told her she couldn’t play with the others that early in her school career.

  4. This is such an informative and timely article. It’s so important to prepare our children for what lies ahead and give them these tools so they can maneuver social groups and situations. I too think empathy and inclusion are essential skills kids need to learn from a very young age.

  5. These are such good tips, and it’s great that you’re raising awareness about a topic that can affect kids deeply. It’s amazing how early on this can start. Empathy and inclusion need to start even earlier.

  6. My daughter had to deal with cliques last year. I think one of the main reason was because she was the new kid. This year I’m making more of an effort to get her play dates with her classmates outside of school.

  7. My daughter has already noticed these at school. I told her you don’t need a bunch of friends anyway! You go to school to learn!

  8. We have noticed this problem with my niece so much over the years! We always say quality over quantity but it is really hard at that age. I have a 13 year old and an 11 year old boy and we do not see these problems like we do in our nieces. I also try to tell my niece the way you cope is so important. I don’t believe this stops at any age.

  9. I guess by definition my friends and I were a clique, but we never excluded anyone as far as I can think of. But my oldest starts kindergarten this year, so this is good information to know to help him if it starts.

  10. My 12 year old niece is dealing with this RIGHT NOW! I just talked to my sister – who is lost as to how to help. Your awesome advice and post couldn’t have come at a better time!

  11. Watching my kids learn how to maneuver through the world can be so difficult. Encouraging them to have diversity in their friendships is a great tip.

  12. This is some really great advice on how to deal with those groups in school. I had such a hard time when I was younger.

  13. Very interesting, Rachel! I am currently living in Cape Town as my husband is from here and I can tell you that even as an adult, cliques are very harmful. This city apparently is famous for them, and it makes it so difficult to make friends or even start a business!

  14. My daughter is in elementary school, but she is getting at the age where this is an issue. She is definitely noticing cliques more. I wish that kids could have a larger group of friends rather than exluding.

  15. As a kid, sadly I’ve had several traumatizing experiences with cliques that would not accept anyone outside their own circle and made everyone else feel like rubbish. Great advice, thank you for sharing!

  16. This is some really great advice. Everyone still deals with cliques to this day! Staying true to yourself is the most important.

  17. A few years back I went to a summer camp for adults (such a thing exists and it’s awesome!) and I saw how naturally cliques formed. I recall the difficulty of finding ‘my group’ when I was in school, and as an adult, the sociology behind the formation of cliques at the summer camp was very interesting. At first we were all getting to know each other and there were no cliques, but slowly, people started forming groups with like-minded individuals.

    Your tips are really on point – being independent and making many groups of friends is key. This is what I tried to do as well and I had a great time at camp instead of being closed off to remaining under a clique.

  18. I work in a high school, and have been a teacher for 10+ years, and I see this kind of behavior. Teaching and providing your child with self confidence, and the value of being different and unique while respecting others, is a great lesson … hard but so valuable!

  19. I am so happy I’m not a kid today, it seems so rough. Like if it was bad then, I can only imagine how much worst technology makes isolated, bullying, and exclusionary behavior. Not fun being on the outside!

  20. This is a great advice from you. Remember this thing you don’t need a lot of friends to impress others instead make your own way and just focus about your goals in life. 🙂 “My opinion only”

  21. I remember watching American TV when I was younger, I didn’t really understand why there are distinct “popular” kids and “losers”… We always had groups of friends and that’s it… there wasn’t really a popularity contest like they show in movies.
    Thanks for sharing this, I think it’s really important!

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