By: Rebecca Michelsen, M.Ed., MCHES, Community Outreach & Education Specialist, Penfield Children’s Center
It does not matter if you are a child or an adult, being left out is tough! However, as a parent how do you help your child understand and cope with those feelings of exclusion?
One of the first things we can do when our child tells us that they were excluded is to get the whole story. While we like to think that our children are sweet little angels, we all know our children are not perfect, so is there a chance that your child did something that caused them to be excluded. If they did, take this opportunity to help them understand why their friends or classmates did not want to play with them.
After your child shares their experience, make sure to listen and help them identify how they are feeling. Acknowledge their feelings and let them know that no one deserved to be excluded. It is also important to make sure your child understands the difference between unkind behavior and relational bullying. Sometimes kids are unintentionally excluded, but there are times when it is done as a form of bullying. You can find more information about relational bullying here.
Do not overreact or try to fix things
Seeing or hearing about your child being excluded from an activity or an event may bring up past emotions from your own experiences, but we want to be cautious about inserting our feelings and emotions into the situation. We also want to make sure not to bad mouth or make up excuses for why we think your child’s friends were behaving the way they did.
Avoid trying to fix things by calling your child’s teacher or contacting the parents of the other children involved. Instead, provide support and guidance for your child. Encourage your child to come up with a solution for how they would like to handle the situation. This will help to build their skills and self-esteem around resolving conflicts with peers.
If this is a situation where your child is experiencing bullying behavior, then it is important to contact your child’s teacher if the incident took place at school. If it took place outside of school, you will want to contact the person in charge of the activity where the incident took place.
Build Their Skills
If after listening to your child, you find they were excluded for a logical reason, help your child problem solve what they could do differently next time. For example, were they unable to participate because the teams were full? If yes, what could they do differently next time so they could play? One solution might be to ask if they could be a referee for the game.
Another reason children may be excluded is if they are lacking social skills. If this is the case for your child, take some time to work on building their social skills. You can do this by reading stories they can relate to or role-playing different scenarios.
Find opportunities for your child to develop and foster new friendships whether it be through extracurricular activities or scheduling play dates. Teaching your children to find ways to include new friends in their lives can help them remember there are more possible friends out there than just the ones who were excluding them.
When your child feels excluded, it is important not to minimize the situation. While this is a common situation for many to experience, we want to make sure that we are being supportive and acknowledging their feelings. As a parent, we need to remember that we may not be able to prevent our children from experiencing feeling hurt and left out, but we can help them learn and grow from the situation.
How have you helped you child work through feelings of exclusion?