How to Help
So how can you help your grade school child develop healthy friendships and find her social niche, whether or not she's been accepted into a clique? Here are some guidelines from the experts.
If your child is not in a clique:
- Help her find an activity outside of school (and away from established cliques), where she can make new friends based on common interests.
- Plan one-on-one social dates at your home, or at a friend's house, or in a neutral location.
- Invite a child, even a clique member, to spend the night at your house. Having a sleepover can be a bonding experience, says Glazer. Also remember that some kids who are popular can still be very nice and a potential friend to your child, she adds.
- Make your home an open and fun place to be. Have children over frequently, and allow your child every opportunity to develop friendships.
- Remind your child that it shouldn't really matter if she's in a clique, as long as she has a couple of good friends at school.
If your child is in a clique:
- Teach her the values of empathy and inclusion. Ask your child how she feels when someone hurts her feelings or when she's been excluded from an activity. Then ask her to put herself in the position of a child who's been hurt or excluded.
- Help her make friends outside of the clique. Enroll her in classes or activities that pique her interest and allow her to meet new children. Then organize one-on-one play dates outside of school.
- Talk to your child's teacher about regrouping kids in a classroom. For instance, a teacher might separate clique members and put them into groups with other children to work on reports, art projects, or experiments. This can help clique members and other kids get to know each other in different ways.
- If your child has temporarily or permanently been kicked out of a clique, help her solve the problem on her own. (In other words, don't confront the clique leader -- or her mother -- yourself!) Remind her that there are lots of other nice kids to play with, set up play dates with new friends, and get her involved in activities that allow her to meet other children and build self-esteem.
- Don't try to dismantle a clique (this will only backfire), but do try to make it more humane. Talk to your child about the consequences of her actions, and remind her that there's something good about everyone.
Sources: Peter Adler, PhD; Diane Ross Glazer, PhD
The information on this Web site is designed for educational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for informed medical advice or care. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat any health problems or illnesses without consulting your pediatrician or family doctor. Please consult a doctor with any questions or concerns you might have regarding your or your child's condition.