Playground Politics

The words were enough to break any mother’s heart. Kathleen Casale didn’t know what to do. Her daughter, Ryley, 8, had her first encounter with a clique. And, most likely, it won’t be her last.

“I just didn’t know what to do,” says Casale. “I want to protect Ryley from heartache, but interfering would only make it worse. Wouldn’t it?”

“Parental interference does make a bad situation worse,” says Margot Seager, former Grade 4 teacher, now retired. “Kids are constantly forming groups, alienating some members, including others. It’s hard to keep up.”

Seager and other experts agree that although a parent can’t make a life perfect for their child, they can help them navigate the playground politics and help them find some true blue friends. Rejection can lead to long-term emotional issues. Friendships and the ability to feel accepted are often more important to school success than learning multiplication tables. Cliques are a fact of life; one solid friendship can ease the pain of not fitting in.

GROUP DYNAMICS
“Parents seem to focus on bullying, but the pain that being excluded from a group of girls Ryley had been playing with day after day, was worse than when someone she didn’t really care about made fun of her for wearing glasses,” says Casale. “She just doesn’t know how to make new friends.”

Making friends doesn’t come easily to all children and dealing with rejection and disappointment can cause a child to have major emotional and academic setbacks. A child excluded from friendships needs to be shown how to bounce back with coping skills a parent can teach.

A parent cannot make their child’s friends for them. They can, however, give them the tools to help them to find a few good buddies. Kids can learn the skills they need to meet other, like-minded kids and this will give them a solid foundation for life.


SKILLS PARENTS CAN HELP THEIR CHILDREN LEARN

1. Sharing/taking turns.
2. Seeing another’s point of view.
3. Meeting new people.
4. Listening without judging.
5. Problem solving.
6. Compromising.
7. How to encourage another.
8. How to handle rejection.
9. Assertiveness – standing up for yourself and standing up to a bully.
10. Handling peer pressure – knowing how to say no.

Recommended reading:
Nobody Likes Me, Everybody Hates Me (Wiley). The book is a guide for parents and teachers to help kids survive teasing, rejection, cliques, peer pressure and bullying. PC

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