We’ve all been there.
It’s the party that all your friends attended and you weren’t invited. It’s the time you got picked last for the basketball team. It’s that uncomfortable sense of not fitting in—whether it’s a one-time situation or an ongoing emotion.
That’s a bad enough feeling when it’s happening to us. But it’s even worse when your kid is dealing with emotions that result from being left out.
As parents, we want to do everything we can to help our kids be happy and succeed. But, sometimes, situations are out of our control—and as much as we want to make everything better, sometimes we can’t.
While we might not be able to “fix” it, there are some things you can do to help your kids through this stage.
Set up your own party or outing and invite potential friends. Once the pandemic is over, consider things like sleepovers or movie nights—or have several possible friends over to watch a big game. Sometimes, it’s not a matter of someone being purposefully left out. They may just not come immediately to mind. By taking the initiative, you’ll give your kid more interactions with potential friends and more opportunities to be involved in the future.
Make sure they know it’s not their fault.
Your child should know that the reason they weren’t invited or picked was not because they did something “wrong.” Instead, focus on working together with them to make the situation better. Don’t say things like, “You shouldn’t be so shy,” but encourage them in knowing that they’ll be a better and stronger person for having gone through this.
Let your child express their emotions and truly tell you how they feel about the situation. Maybe they just need to get it all out, so don’t interrupt or offer advice until they’re finished. Ask questions and make sure you understand the whole situation—details and everything—to truly understand how they feel.
Help them self-reflect.
While it’s not their fault, it is important to make sure they are self-aware enough to reflect back on what happened. If, in a prior situation, they were arrogant or rude, that might have contributed to why they weren’t invited this time. Also, it’s important not to label the other kids as “haters” or something similar—because that eliminates the need for self-reflection.
Distract them with fun.
Being left out can leave your kid in a gloomy mood. When that happens, take that opportunity to do something spontaneous and fun. Go to a movie, take a hike, or take them to their favorite restaurant. Sometimes, you might just need to be a friend to them when they’re in the process of making new friends. Don’t force the situation, but make sure they know you are there when they need you.
As difficult as it might be—especially if it’s a recurring situation—your child will get through the heartbreak with your help and guidance. And they will grow up as a stronger, more compassionate and empathetic adult for having gone through it.
Use these tips to make their situation better, and continue encouraging them that they are exactly who God designed them to be.