How Can I Help My Child to Feel Included at School?

Preschool children in classroom with teacher
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Bullying begins at a young age. It can be displayed as kids not allowing another to join a circle or not being invited to play games or other age-appropriate kid activities. Bullying can result in withdrawal, low self-esteem and even diminished academic achievement can result if adult intervention does not take place.

Kids may not necessarily tell their parents or other adults such as caregivers or coaches, but children who are excluded from peers or don't have friends at child care or school could suffer lasting psychological damage.

Peer rejection can come in the form of not sitting with others at a table, being excluded from games or social times such as recess or outdoor play, or not having anyone in a class or group who interacts with them in any way.

Ways to Help Kids Who Feel Excluded in School

Model confidence

You are your child's teacher and your child is watching your every move and learning from you. Find ways to comfortably assert yourself in situations where someone may be treating you in a way you do not like so your child can hear and see what modeling confidence would look like. 

Teach and help develop basic social skills

Ensure your child feels loved and supported at home, and consider whether social skills need to be taught or reinforced to assist with peer assistance. Try to objectively determine whether the exclusion is due to any socially-unacceptable behavior or patterns that might discourage friendships from forming.

 Social skills may not come naturally to every child so it is important for parents to teach them. Role play or act out scenes that your child tells you she has happened during school. Teach your child how to introduce themselves, ask to join a game kids playing together.

Teach assertive behavior

Teach your child to be assertive by using language that shows your child that they can get their needs met in a respectful manner.

Provide them with assertive language they can use if they do not like how another child is talking to them or treating them. Explain that being assertive means standing up for yourself with confidence and also remaining calm and composed. Teach your child how to remain calm in difficult situations by taking deep breaths. Empower her to either make an assertive statement and walk away, or ignore the bullying altogether.

Stay connected

Remain in constant contact with the adult in charge at school or wherever your child is feeling excluded and consider volunteering or helping out in the classroom where you can quietly observe interactions. Sometimes, simply noting what kids most enjoy, talk about, or play can provide enough information to help a child more successfully engage with others. It is scary and sometimes embarrassing for kids to talk to their parents about bullies, so pay attention to your child's verbal and non-verbal clues and read between the lines. Be observant of changing behaviors and connect with your child regularly so he feels comfortable talking to you about the tough stuff. 

Intervene 

Your job is to protect your child. Adults should calmly discuss concerns with a child and listen carefully, and then make an appointment to discuss the matter with the child's care provider, teacher or coach.

Ask whether other adults have noticed the problem, and any steps they are taking to have the child feel included by other children. Let your child know that you are on their side and adult intervention is sometimes necessary to get to the root of the problem.

Call in the experts, if needed. 

Don't hesitate to speak with a school counselor or child psychologist. It is important to deal with concerns and not ignore them or encourage a child to tolerate it. Isolation is not just about popularity; it can profoundly affect a child's self-esteem and ability to have friends if it is not addressed and resolved.

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