We’ve all seen cliques, whether they’ve been in the movies, in the workplace or from our days back in high school. They’re an exclusive bunch who rarely lets anyone else make the cut into their tight social circle. And sometimes they relish the opportunity to let other people know that they aren’t seen as good enough to hang out with them.
Even though this kind of attitude may no longer bother you as much as it once did, you should still make every effort to be an includer – someone who goes out of their way to invite other people into their social circle.
As a parent, it’s helpful for your child to see you taking other people’s feelings into account and widening your social circle. He’ll be likely to follow your lead. Both he and his classmates will benefit from it. You could positively impact a young life, someone who needs a friend, just by teaching your child to be an includer. Here’s how you can do it.
Make a New Friend
Does one of your besties have a friend that you know a little, but not too well? Invite her out for lunch. Or spend some time getting to know the parents of one of your child’s playmates. Make sure you tell your child how much fun it is getting to know new people.
Talk to Your Child About Feelings
Instead of focusing on the basic feelings most parents already talk about, like being happy, sad or mad, talk about the less-discussed ones.
Talk about being lonely. If you see a group of kids playing together on the playground and you see one child playing by himself without a friend in sight, talk about that. Teach your child to think about what other people might be feeling in certain situations.
If you see someone playing alone, tell your child to go over there and ask him to play. Or if you have a shy child, go with him and try to strike up a conversation between the two children.
Teach Them to Speak Up
You’ll likely tell your children when the time comes that they should never bully anyone. Many parents have a conversation with kids about bullies – why they shouldn’t be one, how to handle it when they are bullied and how much bullying hurts the victims.
Fewer parents talk to their children, however, about defending other children from bullies. Telling a bully to stop may be too frightening for some kids, but they can go up to the victim and ask if they are okay.
Even if there is no bully in the picture, your child can still learn to speak up when he thinks his group of friends is accidentally or purposefully excluding someone else.
By learning to be includers, we can all make this world a better place.
Shannon Serpette is a mother of two and an award-winning journalist and freelancer who lives in Illinois. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.