Parenting Struggle #982: Kid Cliques
My children went to a wonderful elementary school where a feeling of teamwork and anti-bullying messages were foundations of the school and its motto for daily living. Although there were groups of friends, cliques were not a big issue. Everyone felt like family there.
Middle school, however, has been a whole new scene where elementary school friendships dissolved, boy-girl relationships got in the way of friendships, and kids aren’t “cool enough,” to be part of certain sacred circles.
Oh, how I miss those carefree elementary school days!
Although we struggled a lot less with cliques with our son, we have got to experience the challenges of friendships in middle school a lot with our daughter. As someone who never really felt like she fit in anywhere, it hurts my heart to see her not fit in with certain groups. She is a wildly talented, hilarious, and an amazing kid that deserves to be part of ALL groups, but we know that isn’t how kid cliques work.
What is a mama to say when faced with their kid being left out? I’m certainly not perfect, but I am learning!
Listen Without Reacting
I have spent a lot of time reading how to help her through these difficult years and I am learning the first reaction shouldn’t be vocalized.
My gut reaction is like, “OH, NO SHE DIDN’T! WHO DOES SHE THINK SHE IS?”
It’s a tough balance to not rage about another child when your kid is getting cut from the cool club and hearing how it hurts her makes the mama bear claws come out. The thing is, she is processing it too and she needs to come to her own conclusions about that situation.
Be the mama bear that guides your kid through her own emotions about it by asking her things like, “What happened? How did that make you feel? Do you think you could talk to them about it? What can you do to make the situation better?” Let her express her frustrations and give hugs freely.
The truth is, you can rage later over your glass of wine, but part of growing up is letting your child figure out the bigger picture on their own. It’s a big part of maturing and will help them as they form relationships later in their life.
Create Healthy Boundaries
I feel like an old lady saying this, but back in my day we didn’t have social media platforms to showcase where we didn’t fit in. I can remember the hurt I felt when a girl in my class didn’t invite me to her birthday party. Now imagine that she posted a picture on Instagram and tagged all her friends except you. OUCH!
Heck, it stings even if you are an adult!
Talk to your child about what her triggers are that make it harder on her. Is it seeing pictures on Snapchat or Instagram that are making it harder? Consider removing those triggers for a period of time and see if it helps her.
Also, talk to your child about which people bring out the best in her. Perhaps, removing the focus of that group and creating healthy friendships with a new group is a better idea. Foster those connections with a gathering on her turf and inviting people that she finds make her feel included.
New hobbies can also create new circles and new boundaries with old friends. Contact your local art museum about classes, enroll them in a new sport/dance/theater class, or find a club at school that their former clique isn’t a part of. New friends and a new focus can create a natural distance for your child.
Involve the School
I have learned that my kids have to figure things out on their own, but there are times where I need to be involved. If you feel the clique is taking it to a bullying level, it is time to talk to the school and make sure that your child feels safe and protected at school. If you feel your child’s safety is at risk, march in that office and talk to the staff STAT. I can’t tell you how heartbreaking it has been to hear of middle schoolers in our area taking their own life because they have felt bullied at school.
Our daughter now is partnered with a club that encourages self-esteem and members offer support to other kids that are having a hard time fitting in. It has made her feel like part of a solution instead of feeling left out and has been a great way to build confidence and form fresh friendships.
I know we have a long road ahead and I know I won’t always execute the perfect response, but I hope that she knows she can always come to me when things get tough.
Hey, and let’s just keep it real! My terrible and real response, of course, will be after she goes to bed when I tell with her dad:
“OH, NO SHE DIDN’T!”