Cool and the Gang
While it's true that last year your child might have happily plopped down at any old lunch table with a vacant seat, this year is different, and she may be very conscious of whom she sits with and whether or not they even want her to be there. "Seven- and 8-year-olds have definite opinions about whom they like and don't like," says Parents advisor Michael Thompson, Ph.D., coauthor of Mom, They're Teasing Me: Helping Your Child Solve Social Problems. Voicing opinions is an important part of a child's identity development, but it can lead to trouble if your kid ends up feeling excluded or is the one doing the excluding. For Alden, the fact that he was a committed vegetarian made him an easy target for teasing among the wrestling fans in his class. One "boys' club" even managed to pressure a good friend of Alden's into calling him a nasty name. "Alden was hurt, and his friend felt so guilty he cried for hours," says Brandt.
Cliques tend to form around shared interests like sports or video games at this age, so it makes sense that your child will fit in more seamlessly with kids who share her same passion for drawing, dinosaurs, or the flute. Dr. Anthony's own 7-year-old daughter, Maya, has never been particularly athletic, but recently decided to play soccer with an after-school team because she wanted to spend some time with a group of nice soccer-playing kids. "I know my daughter is never going to be a star soccer player, but we want to help her participate, so now she practices soccer on the weekends with my husband," Dr. Anthony explains. "It's a friendly group of kids, and they're happy to have her on the team, even though that usually means kicking around her on the field." A less friendly group might have teased Maya when she missed a goal, just as the wrestling fans teased Alden for being a vegetarian. If that happens with your child, you can point out some of the other kids who appear to have the same skill level, or help guide her toward a different activity where she can meet children who do share her interests.