Social & Emotional Development

8 Tips to Help Kids Cope with Cliques

By: Istar Schwager, Ph.D.
Three boys whispering secrets to each other in a classroom.
2 minutes to read
Ages 3+
Critical Thinking
Social Emotional

For parents, few school-related things are as painful as seeing your child excluded. You worry that being left out could lead to emotional problems and other consequences down the road. Although you can’t outlaw cliques, there are moves to make to help your child cope.

Maybe you’ve been there: Yours is the odd kid on the playground—always picked last, marginalized on the sidelines. Or maybe you have an “it” kid. They run with the in crowd and play only with those who share the same interest in clothes, looks, popularity, sports or money. As any kid will tell you, exclusion hurts. Elementary and middle school kids expend enormous amounts of time and emotional energy trying to fit in. But life inside a clique can be stressful also. Friends who let you into the group in the first place can also throw you out.

How to Help Your Child Cope with Cliques

1. Respect your child's need to feel accepted. 

Remember, it's natural and developmentally appropriate for kids to want to be part of a group. Don't ridicule your child or discount what may seem to be an exaggerated desire to be included and liked.

2. Encourage more than one peer group. 

Shoving all one's social currency into one bucket is risky. Help your child develop several groups of friends: schoolyard buddies, neighborhood playmates and pals from after-school activities. Belonging to several groups will help your child see themself in more than one light.

3. Help your child develop social skills. 

Urge your child to form friendships by listening to, and empathizing with, all their buddies—and to be kind, open and honest with friends.

4. Support individuality. 

Encourage youngsters to value themselves as a unique and worthwhile person. Remind your child that appearance, personality and interests bring something special to the world that nobody else can duplicate.

5. Don't buy into in-crowd values

Resist becoming so invested in your child’s social life that you actually believe having the "right" toys, shoes or fancy birthday parties will buy acceptance. That usually doesn’t work.

6. Help your child look beyond the moment. 

Let your youngster know that the values, abilities and strengths that other kids may not appreciate now are likely to be valued by peers in high school or college.

7. Encourage your child to be inclusive. 

Urge your child to make other kids in their class feel valued, call the new kid in class or get to know the child who often sits alone.

8. Seek advice from professionals. 

A teacher may be able to identify a child or group whose friendship your child can cultivate. If your child has trouble forming friendships or fitting into a variety of groups over time, talk to a professional who can help your child develop social skills.

Our Kindness Collection is designed to help you nurture kindness and empathy while encouraging kids to grow into their best selves: Curious, Creative, Caring and Confident.

Author Photo
By: Istar Schwager, Ph.D.