Coping with Cliques
While cliques can grow out of normal friendships built upon common interests, the social dynamics are quite different from typical friend groups. A clique often has a designated leader who enforces rules, which can be either clearly stated or implied, and which tend to exclude anyone outside of the tightly-knit group.
Cliques become dangerous when they encourage kids to behave in ways they feel conflicted about, when the group becomes anti-social or enforces unhealthy rules including weight loss and bullying, or when a child is rejected by the group and begins to feel left out.
When talking with your pre-teen about how to deal with cliques at school, it can be helpful to share your own experiences with cliques, explain the behavior at the root of these social dynamics, find age-appropriate resources, including books like Wonder by RJ Palacio, and foster friendships with kids outside of school.
Coping with Bullies
Bullying is an unwanted, aggressive, and repetitive behavior toward a targeted individual. While it can often occur at school or social gatherings, it is increasingly common for cyberbullying to take place online.
Because many kids feel ashamed or worried that they’re to blame for the abuse against them, teens and pre-teens often don’t tell anyone about the bullying they’re experiencing. That’s why it is important to pay attention to signs that might indicate bullying, including
- Radical mood changes, depression, or anxiety
- Reluctance to go to school, get online, or attend social events
- Frequent illnesses, headaches, and problems sleeping
- Damaged or missing belongings
- Unexplained injuries or bruises
When discussing bullying or other social issues with middle school students, it’s important to avoid blaming your child or minimizing their experience. Help your child come up with actionable ways to deal with their bully, including simple phrases like “Cut it out” or “That’s not funny” to help them stand up for themselves in a healthy way.
Coping with Differences
If your child is dealing with ADHD, Autism, Asperger’s, Dyslexia, or other differences, they may have an increased risk of being bullied or left out. Be sure to create an open dialogue with them about these types of social issues, even if you aren’t noticing any of the typical signs. You can also check out the following resources about understanding loneliness in children with Asperger’s and helping children cope with the stigma of ADHD.