Help – My Child Doesn’t Fit In At School
Every parent wants their children to succeed in school, both academically and socially. Building friendships and a peer support group is an important part of your child’s education and impacts their self-esteem, confidence and their grades as well. Some kids are social butterflies by nature and have no problem finding their place in the social hierarchy, but others struggle to navigate social settings and find themselves becoming more and more isolated in school. Children that lack a sense of belonging often have a harder time focusing and feeling at ease in school.
How to Know When There is a Problem
You see your child’s test scores and you get a report card every nine weeks, outlining how they are performing academically, but it’s not always as obvious to know when they are struggling socially. You should look for visible behavior changes. For example, if a previously outgoing child suddenly becomes reclusive. Other indications of social problems are a lack of interest in friends they were once close to, abrupt reluctance to go to school, changes in eating habits, becoming withdrawn and self-absorbed, or avoiding social outlets they once liked, such as sporting events or dances.
Some changes in behavior are simply a natural part of development, however they may be a warning that your child is finding it difficult to make friends, feeling left out or even being bullied.
What Can Parents Do
Naturally parents want to fix any problem their child may have, but experts warn that parental involvement can hinder your child’s ability to pick up on social cues and adjust to the change in social interactions. In addition, your child may not want you to interfere and doing so may result in a loss of trust and he may try to hide future struggles from you.
Rather than stepping in, try to listen when your child talks about how their feelings and experiences. Affirm what they are going through and provide reassurance, but refrain from giving advice. You can respond with phrases like “It sounds like you had a really tough day.” or “It must be hard to feel like you don’t fit in.”
Being an active listener, but not a problem solver, can be challenging for parents, but the goal is to connect with your child and build trust over time so she feels secure coming to you with her problems. Try to set aside at least 15 minutes during the week to connect with your child without any interruptions. This time should not be used to discuss intense issues, but just to bond and build trust.
Expand Their Social Circle
Encourage your child to find an activity outside of school where she can thrive all by herself, such as a club or sport. Doing so will strengthen his confidence and it will likely introduce him to kids that have a common interest. It is often easier for shy kids, especially boys, to bond over an activity because it can reduce the pressure to converse, yet encourages interaction.
When to Trouble Fitting In Leads to Bullying
If you suspect your child is being bullied, you need to take action. Contact your child’s teachers and administration and inform them of the situation. You will need to explain exactly what is going on and develop a plan to keep your child from being bullied in the future. Find more information on bully prevention and how to respond to bullying here.