It is difficult for parents to help a child cope with the emotional pain of “not fitting in” when their hearts are aching over their child’s distress.
Helping your child involves coaching, teaching and setting limits, which you can read about in Part 1.
And below are seven tips that may help your child manage the pain of feeling excluded.
Tips for Helping Your Child
- It is normal to feel frightened, angry or powerless when your child has been hurt. Spend a few minutes calming down before responding. Take some slow, deep breaths or talk the situation over with a spouse, parent or friend – whatever helps you tap into your wisdom.
- Though being picked on is a common experience, right now the distress is your child's world. Calmly listen to what your child says, be soothing in response, and let them know they were heard. You might say, “When I was a kid, this happened to me – I know it really hurts,” or, “This must be awful for you.”
- Let your child know that feeling excluded happens to kids sometimes – they are not alone – and that you will help them with it. Helping them might be finding relevant books to read (e.g., books about feelings, social skills workbooks), talking to teachers and administrators, or setting up counseling sessions.
- You might suggest your child focus on finding one new friend instead of trying to fit in with a group. Maybe there is someone in their class they want to hang out with or someone outside school such as a fellow soccer or chess player. Sometimes it is easier to befriend shy or more reserved kids who might be looking for a new friend themselves.
- Positive self-talk is not pretending everything is perfect; it is the art of talking to one’s self in a rational, self-soothing way. This is a great skill to have and one that parents can teach. For instance, you might tell your child: “When people say things that upset me I tell myself that I’m doing the best I can, and there’s not a thing I can do about it if someone doesn’t like me. I know there are people who care about me just the way I am, just as there as people who love you.”
- Teach your child that asking for help is always okay. You might suggest your child talk to the teacher about their problem. If the teacher is not responsive, you can support them by saying, “You did the right thing asking your teacher for help – good for you. Now I’ll try to help by talking by to your teacher.”
- One of the best things you can do for your child when they are upset is ask them, “What would be helpful for you right now?” Your respectful regard for their wishes – whether it be for space, a hug or going for a bike ride – not only helps them manage their feelings, but also teaches them respect for others’ needs.
If you suspect your child is being bullied, take a proactive approach with school personnel. Start by talking to the teacher. If they are not responsive, talk to the principal. If they do not work with you, call the superintendent. Have the school explain specifically what they will do to keep your child safe.