Strangers, No Friends: How Parents Can Help Their Children
We find our children very adorable. It’s tough when your peers see things differently. Also for parents who often feel helpless.
Written by Miriam Connell
This text first appeared here on brigitte.de.
Neil is in fourth grade. Days are counted until a school change for two reasons: “Because I’m finally getting out of this class and because I’m afraid of the new class.” While Neil is talking, her mother squints her eyes, then quickly smiles and says, “He’s going to be great at the new school. I’m sure you’ll make friends quickly!” Nelly shrugs her shoulders. She can’t really believe that.
She doesn’t remember exactly when she started. Maybe in second grade, maybe later. Somehow all of a sudden some boys started shooting at her. It was so unstable that it was fluctuating more and more. “My dear friend said afterwards that I became a crying baby and looked for other friends,” she says wistfully. But no matter how lonely Neil may feel, her story is unfortunately not an isolated case. Many children like you. Being an outsider, or “inappropriate” as it’s called these days, is an existential problem. In various studies, social researchers have come to the conclusion that “having good friends” is the most important component of happiness even at elementary school age.
Loud and shy kids have a hard time
There are many different reasons why children become strangers. Some – such as Nele – are simply very unsafe and can therefore be quickly eliminated. This in turn makes them easy victims. Once they fall into this downward spiral, it is not easy for them to get out of their turn. But even the terrible clowns sometimes have a hard time on the set. Depending on the dynamic of the group, they can also easily become strangers. As children get older, the pressure to conform increases. While a few stand out well in the group due to their uniqueness, others are ostracized. But what can you do if your child is somehow “unfit”?
Don’t talk “seriously” to other children under any circumstances
If children absolutely do not want their teachers or parents to go to the class or group to talk to them about the situation, they immediately. Psychologists strongly discourage such “classroom discussions” because they further stigmatize the child in question. Also, inviting all the classmates to the final birthday party is not very helpful. Experts advise strengthening individual friendships through invitations or joint activities, and boosting a child’s confidence through hobbies or other groups. Because a child’s good standing in the classroom often stands and falls with their self-esteem. Fortunately, you can work on that outside of school, too. But definitely not by hurting your classmates.
What parents can do
No, we cannot and should not save our children from all difficult situations. But we can be there for you. Depending on the age, this “presence” looks different …
3 to 6 years old – keep calm
In this case, the phrase “little children, small worries – big children, big worries” is good news. If Kindergarteners are left out, you can still monitor, rate, and provide a little support in dealing with friends. The teachers will also help the child find their way into the group.
Act: Your support is kind
noEntirely avoid statements such as “No wonder no one wants to play with you like that.”
6-9 years old – stay connected
Usually, the first serious problems appear in the second and third grades, when the grade has settled. It is now difficult to determine exactly where the problem is, because children are usually busy and meet outside of school without their parents. Very important: always give your ear, but do not ask questions. It’s best to talk about your day, including the moments you walked in. This helps the child to open up and talk about problems. Common grief is half grief. And sometimes a good idea comes to you both, how to protect yourself from being rude or how to be polite and friendly in a group.
Act: Listen carefully, stay in the conversation.
noDistribute the blame and look for the “villain”. This does not help anyone.
From the age of ten – we go to the cinema together
Now it’s finally getting complicated. When kids/teens develop together side by side at the speed at which they are at this age, it must be really stressful. And that’s for everyone. In addition, at this age, courtship begins in favor of the opposite sex, which suddenly leads to a competitive situation. Then it almost doesn’t matter how you fall off the frame. If you are too beautiful, too small, too tall, too loud, too quiet, too stupid, too rich, too different, too poor… any deviation from the norm can become a problem. A good remedy against “loneliness”: the films. There are a lot of really great movies out there about feeling not belonging. And they always carry – as superficial as some may be – a little truth and a solution strategy within them.
ActListen carefully and build self-confidence by trusting your child and taking their perceptions seriously.
noForcing people to talk, offering 1,000 solutions, and constantly addressing the problem of puberty. It’s heavy enough that you don’t have to hit it.