Parenting Perspective: The "In Crowd"

April 2, 2010 7:54:11 AM PDT
When I was in college (which seems like eons ago because it was) I remember wanting to be a part of the campus "in-crowd"...the popular people, the cool people...and I spent a lot of time and aggravation trying to be accepted. I got caught up in wanting to be in a "clique"...and looking back I realize it had a lot to do with my own insecurities and self-esteem.

My seven-year-old son Nicholas may be going through the same thing in second grade. He recently mentioned how during recess, he likes to play with the "cool" kids, although sometimes they don't always let him. And that's really what a clique is. Experts define it as a group of friends that leave other kids out on purpose. It's usually run by one or two kids who have been deemed "popular" and they decide who can be a part of their group and who gets left out.

Indeed some parents--including me--are just so happy and relieved their child has a group of friends, that they ignore the signs that the child may be either in a clique or attracted to one. While having friends and socializing in school is an important part of a child's development, fitting in can become a vital part of that youngster's life. But conversely, being left out of a group can be hurtful, especially if the child is being ostracized or targeted because of traits you as a parent admire. For instance if your child looks, acts or dresses differently than others, he or she may be deemed not worthy of belonging to a clique. Research has shown that this can take an emotional toll, causing self-esteem issues, even loneliness and depression--even in second grade.

Once I realized my son was being lured by a clique (and sometimes rejected by one) I immediately recalled my days in college, and some old feelings of anger and frustration were resurrected. Moments later I was researching ways to help my child deal with cliques. Here's some of the advice I found from various resources:

1. Encourage your children to always treat other with kindness and respect and avoid other kids who do not.

2. Find ways to constantly boost your child's self-esteem to hopefully lessen their need to be part of the "in-crowd".

3. Come up with healthy ways for your child to socialize, like inviting one or two friends over the house, or participating in some type of activity away from the rest of the group.

Despite my experience with cliques in college, it's important for me to remember that cliques don't have to be bad. They only become a problem when its members become nasty to others. It's up to me to make sure my son has the support and guidance to be able to know the difference.