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How to Teach Children About Friendship and Cliques

by Karen Kleinschmidt, studioD

Parents can help their children through adolescence - when friendships take precedence over family and cliques begin to form - by teaching their kids how to determine the difference between social acceptance and personal acceptance. In an article on the website Family Education, Charlene Giannetti and Margaret Sagarese propose that parents can help their youngsters realize that a peer group does not have the final say in who someone is. Remind your children that integrity, which includes personal values and dignity, cannot be taken away based on how a particular clique tries to define them. Integrity resides within them. Helping your children reach a balance of belonging and personal acceptance is your ultimate goal.

Empathize with your child's wish to fit in. This is a basic need. Educational psychologist Istar Schwager reminds parents not to discount their child's thoughts and feelings about being accepted, even if they seem dramatic.

Help your child develop multiple peer groups. Encourage friendships from the neighborhood, sports, church and other activities. Schwager points out that this will encourage your child to have different views of himself.

Encourage friendships. Help your child learn how to be a good friend. Remind her to slow down and listen to her friends. It is also important to emphasize the importance of communication, trust and balance of give and take within a friendship.

Remind your child to be himself. How he looks, the way he chooses to dress and the activities he pursues all make up who he is. Encourage and support him as an individual.

Remember that you can't buy social acceptance. Schwager reminds parents that the latest and greatest toys, electronics, shoes or clothes won't buy true acceptance. Your children will get the wrong message if you try to curry favor with their friends this way.

Share your own experiences with your children. The website Kids Health recommends that parents acknowledge their own experience with cliques and let their children know they understand the difficulty of navigating them. Remind your children to stay true to themselves. The very thing your child may be judged on or ridiculed about now, she may be rewarded for down the road.

Acknowledge that this is a difficult time for you as parents as well as for your child. You want your child to fit in; encourage your child to accept peers as the people they are and discourage rejection. Over time, your children will learn the skill of true acceptance and to be open minded when it comes to accepting differences in others; they will eventually develop the ability to choose friends who are right for them as individuals.

About the Author

Karen Kleinschmidt has been writing since 2007. Her short stories and articles have appeared in "Grandma's Choice," "Treasure Box" and "Simple Joy." She has worked with children with ADHD, sensory issues and behavioral problems, as well as adults with chronic mental illness. Kleinschmidt holds a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from Montclair State University.

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