When A Clique Excludes Your Kid

It's natural for children to form cliques because they want to belong and have an identity. But, family therapist Meri Wallace told The Early Show, those groups can become exclusionary.

Wallace offers suggestions on how parents can help their children overcome feelings of exclusion and get through this difficult time.

Cliques are different from just a group of friends gathering together in that they actively exclude other children. Weather a boy or a girl is excluded, the feelings are the same: "lonely and miserable."

An example of what kids in a clique may say: "You can't sit at my table in the lunch room. You can't walk down the hall from me," Wallace said. "A boys' clique might use sports and outward aggression to show that they belong to a clique. Girls will use more subtle manipulation with more put downs, sarcasm, and cattiness because that is more socially tolerable for them."

Here are some things that parents can do to help their children:

Convey optimism

  • Create and environment at home where your child can actively talk about cliques but realize, unfortunately, it takes a long time to resolve.
  • Listen and ask the children what they think might help. Let them know they don't need to be in a clique to feel happy in life.
  • Tell them how special they are. Reassure your child that kids in the clique are often in one because they want to feel valuable.
  • Explain to your child why they are in a clique. Explain that they have everything they need.
  • Give your kids suggestions. It is good to say: "When I was your age this happened to me, and what worked for me is that I had one or two friends. … It was really hard for me, but I had to ignore this one girl that was teasing me and it worked. She stopped."

Practice role playing
Empower your child. Pretend you are a member of the clique and say something nasty to your child. Let them practice what they would say to you. One thing to teach during role play is to walk away. Teach them phrases like: "I don't like what you are saying." "That is rude." "I think you are immature." PRACTICE these phrases with your kid.

Encourage new and positive activities
If your child is upset about cliques, or even starting to isolate themselves, enroll them in special-interest groups. For example, if your son likes math, put him in a math group. He is sure to find kids that have things in common. You can also arrange play dates with cousins or old friends to remind your child that he/she is socially acceptable.

Be a good role model
Remember your kids are watching you. Cliques never go away. They exist with adults as well. Watch what you say about your friends or other people in the neighborhood when your child is around. If a parent is being exclusionary then their child might believe that is the only way to be accepted. Try not to be involved in a clique.