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When your child doesn’t fit in

Every kid wants to be cool. Whether it’s on a softball team or in a school clique, acceptance and support are important emotional needs for children. But what happens when your child comes home crying because he or she had to sit on the sidelines while the others got to play? Being left out can hurt children’s self-esteem and keep them from experiencing new things. Here’s how to help your child fit in.

• Talk to your child. Find out the details of the situation. Has Jenny been left out more than once? Are the same people involved? Did something happen to make them mad at her? Maybe she’s too young for the group she wants to be part of. Sometimes just talking with an adult can help children get the perspective they need.

• Talk to others. Schedule a meeting with your child’s teachers or coaches. Find out if they’ve noticed any behavioral problems in your child.

• Watch and learn. Observe your children at play with other kids. Do they share? Are they willing to compromise? If your children don’t try to be part of the group or participate unfairly, that could be the reason they are being left out.

• Be objective. You may think Joey’s a sweet angel, but if he’s pushy with his friends, he’ll be playing alone. Likewise, a child who seems confident and strong willed at home may be a wallflower on the playground. Learning to see your children as others see them will help you teach them to be better people.

• Discover new things. Not everyone is designed for team activities. Encourage your youngster to explore hobbies like reading, drawing or skateboarding. Working with others is an important skill, so you may want to find a group class that focuses on individual work, like an art class.

• Help out. Children can be mean. An out-of-date hairstyle or an off-brand pair of jeans can put your kid on the sidelines. You don’t have to break the bank, but if a trendy sweater or a pair of sneakers gives your child the confidence to be part of the crowd, the extra money and time may be worth it.

On the other hand, remind your children that not being part of the “in” crowd doesn’t make them outsiders. Kids who are not popular are just as special and important as everyone else.