Another weekend and my daughter has no plans with friends. She’s a great girl, but her friendship road has been a little bumpy. It’s been difficult for her, and when I see her being left out, it makes me sad because I know that she’s sad.
I realize there are other moms who have gone through the same thing. My sister was one of them.“It stinks,” she told me. “But it usually gets better.” And it did for her son. After enduring elementary and middle school years filled with rejection and hurt, he finished high school with a great group of buddies and even a girlfriend! So hang in there, Mom, but don’t sit idly by. You can do things to help your children during the “being left out” phase. Here are 4.
1. Steer clear of stigmas.
First and foremost, handle your left-out child with care. Even if you notice a pattern, avoid labeling your child with words like shy, different, or awkward. And definitely avoid these 15 things moms should never say. You want your child to feel like there are things she—and you—can do to make the situation better, or that he can ride out this challenging period and come out on the other side stronger. Focus on your kid’s good points. You want the message to be “let’s see how we can make this better,” not, “let’s figure out what’s wrong with you and what you’re doing wrong.”
That being said, if your child does need help learning how to make friends, look over these ideas. Just be sure to share them with your child in a sensitive, non-accusatory way.
Even if you notice a pattern, avoid labeling your child with words like shy, different, or awkward.
2. Be a party planner.
Look for opportunities for your left-out child. Set up play dates if your child is young. For older children, offer to host a group of kids for a sleepover or a trip to the movies. Encourage your child to get involved with activities where she can make friends. Fill her time with visits with family members, babysitting if she’s old enough, or volunteer work.
If your child is middle school age or older, seek out friendships with other couples who have kids your child’s age.
3. Listen and love.
Be a good listener when your child opens up about being left out. Stop what you’re doing. Focus on him. Don’t give advice until he’s finished talking. When you do give advice, offer it lovingly. “Hey, Buddy, I’m so sorry you’re feeling left out. Do you want to try to come up with some things to make this situation better?”
If your child is being picked on in addition to being left out, address that also. One parent I was talking with said his son came to him upset after some children told him his name was ugly. This dad said, “Luke, do you like your name?” The little boy said yes. “Well, I like it too. Mom and I chose that name because it means giver of light and you brighten our lives, Luke.” How’s that for great parenting?
4. Be a friend.
My daughter is in the thick of it right now, so I try to be a fun companion without a hint of pity. “Hey! Let’s go for a bike ride. Want to play a game? Want to watch a movie?” While I’m working on helping her make friends, I’m going to fill the role a friend would.
How do you handle your child being left out?