7 Ways to Help Your Child Deal with Being Ostracized

Ideas for dealing with and moving beyond social rejection

girls excluding another girl

When most people think about bullying, they imagine a face-to-face conflict that involves pushing, shoving and possibly hitting. Or maybe they imagine a child being called names and made fun of. But there is another more subtle form of bullying called relational aggression.

With this type of bullying, kids often socially reject, exclude or ostracize other children. This type of bullying becomes more and more evident as kids get into middle school and junior high.

It is even commonplace in the workplace to have exclusive groups where others are purposefully left out.

Dealing with this type of bullying can be a challenge for kids. It causes a lot of pain to be excluded, especially at a time when peer relationships are so important. Not only do kids suffer socially, but they also can suffer academically. And if a child grows into an adult feeling worthless, rejected or less valued than others, this can cause all sorts of issues.

Although you cannot prevent your child from being ostracized, there are things you can do to help her if it does happen. Here are some ways you can help your child cope with being ostracized at school.

Validate your child's feelings. Make sure she feels comfortable sharing with you. Avoid overreacting or calling those excluding your child names. Also do not shame your child for being ostracized. Refrain from saying that she should be different somehow or that she should try harder to be liked.

Instead, focus on listening and empathizing with how she is feeling. Communicate that no one deserves to be ostracized and emphasize that she has a lot to offer the world.

Also, be sure your child can identify the difference between unkind behavior and bullying. Sometimes when kids are excluded, it’s not intentionally meant to harm your child.

And even though it hurts to be left out, it does happen. Help your child determine if the kids at school were being unkind or bullying and making a deliberate effort to exclude her. Regardless of which situation your child experienced, don’t minimize her hurt feelings. Both experiences are painful and need to be dealt with.

Discuss what is controllable and what isn’t. Be sure your child realizes that she has no control over what other people say or do. But she can control how she responds. Work with your child to come up with ideas on how to handle the situation and overcome bullying. The goal is that your child would not feel helpless but instead feel empowered with different options.

Also be sure your child does not embrace victim-thinking. Yes, what she experienced is unfair and painful, but it does not mean that she has to remain a victim of this behavior. Empower your child to move beyond this situation so that it does not define who she is.

Give advice, but do not fix things. It’s never a good idea for parents to take over in a situation, no matter how much you want to.

Refrain from calling the parents of the kids excluding your child. Instead, let her decide how she wants to handle the situation. Demonstrate that you trust her decisions. This will go a long way in rebuilding self-esteem. It also helps to build assertiveness, autonomy and strength.

Your role as a parent is to be there for back up should she need it. Guide her in how to overcome the situation but do not take over. Your child needs your support, your listening ear and your empathy, but she also needs to be empowered too. Let her know you have her back, but that you also believe in her abilities to address this situation. 

Seek out other friendships. Healthy friendships are one of the best ways to prevent bullying. Additionally, having at least one friend will give a child a sense of belonging, which can go a long way in erasing the impact of being rejected at school. Look for ways you can help your child develop friendships.

Encourage her to make friends at school, at church, on her sports teams and in other activities. Remind her that the people excluding her are not the only potential friends out there. Instead of focusing on what they are doing to her, she should take control of the situation and look for ways to invite new people into  her life. She will feel a lot better about her situation if she makes some new friends.

Encourage participation in outside activities. When your children are involved in outside activities, whether it’s sports, yearbook staff, a church group or a reading club, they  have an opportunity to make new friends. They also are building self-confidence. Additionally, outside activities give kids the opportunity to release tension, develop creativity and blow off steam. Do not underestimate the importance of getting your kids involved in activities outside of school.

What's more, when kids are busy with activities, they are able to be around peers and socialize. The need for social media also decreases because they have face-to-face contact with others. Additionally, there is a lesser risk of cyberbullying and other unhealthy online behaviors because their free time is more productive.

Improve your child’s social skills. Many times when a child is ostracized, it’s the result of other kids being mean or catty. But sometimes kids are excluded because they are lacking proper social skills. This does not mean your child is to blame for being excluded. The bullies and mean girls are still responsible for their choices.

But you can help prevent future incidents by helping your child hone her social skills. Also, help your child develop the traits needed to cope with bullying. By doing so, you also will be instilling healthy habits and traits that will benefit your child indefinitely.

Consider outside help. Being socially rejected can affect your child in a number of ways including negatively impacting self-esteem. As a result, it is a good idea to get outside help. A pediatrician or a counselor can assess your tween or teen for depression as well as screen for thoughts of suicide. Even if your child appears fine to you, it never hurts to get a second opinion.

It also helps for your child to have someone to talk to besides a parent. Outside counselors can be more objective and less emotionally involved than a parent. As a result, they may be able to offer tips and suggestions that you did not consider. Counseling also can empower your child to learn how to take back the control in her life.

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