Is Your Child Rejected by Peers? Here’s What to Do

Being rejected by peers can be a difficult experience for a child. Learn about the possible reasons for rejection and strategies to help your child cope and make friends.

Child Rejected by Peers

Just as easily as children can make friends, so too can they feel rejected by their peers.

A group of friends can exclude one child, or kids at the playground can be outright mean to yours. Maybe you realize you need to teach your child to be assertive and approach others with more confidence.

And while adults have learned better social cues and behaviors, kids are still learning this valuable skill. The experience of being rejected can be painful, ridden with anxiety and loneliness.

How can you help your child—so vibrant, cheerful, and social—handle peer rejection and prevent it in the first place?

Show empathy

As an adult, it’s tempting to see social conflicts among kids can as petty, but your child’s emotions are just as raw and real to her as yours are to you.

She’s trying to make sense of the emotions she feels and turns to you, hoping to understand what she’s going through.

Before brushing her emotions aside or even showering her with reassurances, show empathy instead. This doesn’t mean challenging her story, being the devil’s advocate, or lecturing her on what went wrong.

Instead, simply describe what she must be feeling in words she can understand. “It looks like you felt pretty bad when they didn’t want to play with you.” Acknowledge that her feelings are real so that she feels heard and validated. Listen without judgment so that she can simply share her feelings without fear or anxiety.

Free resource: Grab your copy of The Power of Empathy! You’ll learn how empathy is the secret key that makes a huge difference in how we interact with our kids. Imagine transforming your relationship using the lessons you’ll learn right here. You’ll also get my newsletters, which parents say they LOVE:

“I just want to thank you for this. I’m in the middle of overwhelm with young kids in school and a toddler at home with me, and over the last couple of weeks, I’ve convinced myself I wasn’t cut out for the work this is taking. But your words gave me extra pause and push this a.m. that reminded me I can do this. Thanks for giving me some extra pep in my step on a Monday morning. It means the world to me!” -Kathryn Bartling

The Power of Empathy

Encourage your child to show empathy

Kids can be pretty blunt, especially since they haven’t fine-tuned their social skills as well as adults have. So, when a child wants to be alone or is wary of strangers, he may not have the social skills to be polite, smile, and turn away. He won’t create an excuse or even hint that your child isn’t welcome.

No—he might say frank things like, “Go away,” or “Don’t talk to me.”

Remind your child of a time when he had his preferences and wanted to play alone. “Remember how you were working on your blocks and you didn’t want your cousin to join? Sometimes we want to play by ourselves or don’t want to talk to other people.”

You’re not trying to justify the other child’s actions so much as helping him understand how he might have been in those other kids’ shoes. He may not feel so terrible when he can relate to their needs as well (even if they could’ve communicated it better).

Don’t overreact or jump in

Do you catch yourself wanting to step in the instant your child gets rejected? Before you do, decide whether doing so does more harm than good.

Many kids aren’t as aware of peer rejection as you and I are. It may not be a big deal to them as it can be for us, and they’re often able to move on without feeling offended.

But when we step in too quickly or too often, they might wonder whether something is wrong and needs more attention. “Why is mom making such a big deal about this? They didn’t want to play with me right now, that’s all.”

Watching our kids get rejected is heartbreaking. No one wants to see their child try to make friends only for others to turn them away. But to them, these situations may not be such a big deal. Only when we step in are they made more aware of it.

Be matter-of-fact

Sometimes the best we can do is to state the facts and move on. “He didn’t want to play.” Rather than dwell on the subject, encourage your child to move on. She can find someone else to play with or something else to do.

Empathize and acknowledge her feelings, then encourage her to forge ahead. Analyzing the situation too much or making a big deal can make her feel like there’s more to this than she knows.

And give other kids the benefit of the doubt. One time, a parent kept reining in her child, assuming that my kids would find her behavior strange. But it wasn’t necessary—my kids weren’t fazed at all and welcomed her goofy behavior.

Observe your child playing with others

Observe your child and the obstacles he runs into in social settings. Does he do better with big groups or small groups? How does he approach other kids? How can you help him make friends?

Based on those questions and answers, you can then decide which situations are conducive for him. If he does better with smaller groups, a play date with one or two other kids could be good practice. If he approaches other kids with aggressive behavior, you might show him how to better talk to them.

Playdates with familiar kids can help him practice social skills and feel less intimidated. And if he needs more confidence, surround him with younger kids. Being the oldest of the bunch can boost his confidence, and younger kids are more likely to look up to him and want to play.

Give your child social tools and tips

It’s happening again and again. Your child goes to the playground and approaches several kids, only to be rejected. Whether she’s hurt or unfazed, you know there’s a better way she could approach others. Help her better tackle social situations and playground rules with these tips:

  • Remind her to approach kids gently. Social kids are so friendly that they forget or don’t realize that they can appear aggressive. People—even kids—appreciate personal space and gentle approaches. Remind her that others need time and space to make friends.
  • Encourage parallel play. Many young kids still practice parallel play, playing side-by-side and doing the same activity. For instance, two kids could be shoveling their own buckets next to each other instead of together into one bucket. Your child may be eager for more back-and-forth play, but let her know it’s also okay to play the same activities sitting near them.
  • Help her recognize bullying behavior. Kids can be oblivious to bullying behavior or crave attention or company so much that they’ll put up with mean kids. I saw a group of kids tell a boy he could “play” with them, but all they did was run away from him whenever he showed up. Don’t let that happen. If you see other kids being mean on purpose, encourage your child to find other friends or things to play with.
  • Help your child recognize “stop” signals. Sometimes kids do give signals, but your child doesn’t notice them. They’re left with no choice but to blatantly tell her, “Go away” or “I don’t want to play with you.” Teach her those signals. Maybe the other child looks or walks away or doesn’t want to play what she suggested. You can also let her know that she can ask the other kids what they would like to do.
Playground Rules

Conclusion

No one wants to see her child rejected by peers, especially when she’s trying to be a good friend to others. You can’t—and shouldn’t—save her from heartache, but you can help her cope with rejection with the tips you learned here.

Get more tips:

Don’t forget: Join my newsletter and grab your copy of The Power of Empathy below—at no cost to you:

The Power of Empathy

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

29 Comments

  1. I’m curious as to your thoughts on this scenario when your child wants to play with others but is purposely and repeatedly excluded through no fault of their own? My child has encountered this continually at a small-town school and I don’t know what to do to solve the problem and ensure she feels supported and part of her peer group without adult intervention. (We have tried this, by the way, but the middle-school cliques are well formed and kids just aren’t as welcoming as they used to be).

    1. Hi Ainsley, my kids aren’t in the middle school age yet but I can only imagine (and can even remember!) just how clique-y that stage can get. Have you tried reaching out to parents of the kids? I would try to touch base with one of the other parents to set up a hang out. I know it’s still adult intervention, but kids tend to let their guard down when they’re not in a massive group.

      I would also continue to help build your child’s confidence regardless of other kids not wanting to play with her. And continue to build your own strong relationship with her, so that it’s not all about peers and classmates, either.

  2. Thanks for tips, Nina!
    My 5-yo son is now going through an unpleasant experience of being rejected by the group. He has some unsolvable health issues since babyhood, what affected his growth, menu, possibility to do sports…
    This week he went into a group of children, who know each-other for years. And for my boy it’s the first experience of being among other kids without relatives. Should mention, that the boy is very active (though he is in constant pains), very communicative, naive, opened, looking for attention and always ready to play. He doesn’t understand bad behavior towards himself, doesn’t understand, why others come and hit him, reject him from playing at the playing ground at school. They play with him in the class, when the teacher is watching them, and reject at the ground, when there’s no teacher.
    As long, as my boy was from the ever beginning scratched, kicked and hit in belly (what is dangerous for him), I had to talk another time to the teacher and principle about his state of health and danger of getting belly punches. I asked not to let kids hit each-other, not to tell anybody about my boy’s condition, and, if they ask why he eats different food- to say, that he simply has an allergy. My heart broke, when I saw children from other groups a bit sarcastically saying hello and naming him, while he doesn’t know any of them. Appeared to be, that the teacher told to all kids, that they may not hit him in belly not to make it worse ( like in general it’s normal to be hitting each-other…) So, teacher stigmatized my boy despite me asking them not to make an outcast of him.
    Now my sick small opened and playful boy is standing at the playing ground, watching other kids playing. And still gets hurt by some children from other groups. But still doesn’t cry, he never does. OMG, am I speaking now about kids of 5 and younger???
    All my talks with school staff didn’t help the situation- nobody neither did pedagogic work to introduce him correctly to the group, nor kept him safe from stigmatization.
    Maybe U can help me with solving this problem, I can think off nothing? My son is intellectually absolutely safe, physically- visually still also. He needs communication, suffers from being rejected and very insulted with the teacher telling everybody about his problems. Probably, there’s no possibility to go to this school anymore, but I want to prevent the same situation occurring in the next school.
    Never felt so bad and helpless

    1. Nina Garcia says:

      Rita I’m so sorry to hear this! It’s absolutely heart breaking to hear your son being bullied in school, plus the teacher’s indifference or downplaying the situation.

      I would continue to keep talking and bringing it up, not just to the teacher but going up the chain of command: the principal, the guidance counselor, school social worker, superintendent, school board or even the local police if you fear for your child’s safety. Talk to other parents to see what you can do.

      Then, I would record everything that has happened. All the dates, the situation, the consequences, etc. That way you have facts on your side.

      No child should ever feel ostracized for going to school, for any reason. I’m hoping that all works out well, that you reach compassionate and level-headed people who will take action and advocate for your son.

  3. My daughter is 6 years old. At her school there are 5 girls and 24 boys in her class. For a while there have been instances of social exclusion of my daughter but she dealt with it – happy with her own company. But over the Christmas break the girls were having sleep overs at each other’s houses and nobody invited my daughter. Despite inviting each girl to play at our house, we received no return invites. When the new term started, the girls had formed a gang that excluded my daughter. No name calling, no violence, just completely blanking her. When my daughter approaches them full of beans wanting to play and talk, they literally turn their backs on her.
    For a while she followed them around pretending that she was part of their game but they blanked her. The girls started seeing the school psychologist where they discuss the importance of inclusion and playing together. Great for the girls in the gang. For a while, when my daughter asked to play they replied, ‘yes’ but then refuse to tell her the rules of the game or what they are playing.

    My daughter has gone from a very bright and enthusiastic girl to someone who is blaming herself for this behaviour. She cries herself to sleep every night but each day, she tries harder to be liked. Tries her best to be happy, tries her best to compliment the girls even though they turn their backs on her when she talks. Recently, they started playing hide and seek… they start the game as a group and the teachers observing think that all is fine and that my daughter is being included. Only she isn’t. For a while, she thought it was great. At last, a break through. But what is actually happening, is that they start the game. My daughter hides, they seek each other out, but don’t seek my daughter out but instead go off and play another game. Yesterday, my daughter finally twigged what was going on… and the tears started again.

    To compound it all… one of the parents was complaining to me that her daughter came home from school saying she was a bad person and a bad friend. The parent was going to have words with the school about what they are doing in their psychology groups. In order to make her daughter feel happy again she decided to have a pizza party and invited all the girls except my daughter. If it was a matter of cost, I would’ve paid for the pizza myself. But now, I don’t know if I am to blame the girls or to blame the parents. My daughter is absolutely devastated. She started self harming at the age of 6!!!! And it is now 3.33am in the UK and she has woken 4x now screaming. It is absolutely heartbreaking.

    We are on the verge of moving her schools but I feel like we are being herded out of the school and there will only be 2 years before they are back together again at Middle School. I am seriously biting my tongue because I don’t want to make matters worse for my daughter but my patience is rapidly coming to its end. I don’t think things can get any worse. When your 6 year old daughter comes home from school happy because some boys spent break time kicking her and stamping on her coat… because at least that was better than being ignored and the school does absolutely nothing to punish the boys because they’re the star pupils and they don’t want to upset their parents. When we go to talk to the school they are trying to manage us and not manage the situation with my daughter. I am trying to do everything right and by the book but it just is not working. She is getting worse. 6 year old girls shouldn’t be self harming because they don’t want to go to school and face being ignored. Help!

    1. Nina Garcia says:

      Oh, Nick—I can’t even imagine how horrible this must be for you and your family, especially your little girl. I’m especially appalled that the school isn’t doing more to turn things around, or even diving deeper (aka assuming all is fine if they’re “playing” hide and seek). From what I’ve heard, it’s best to continue to talk and talk and talk, going higher up the school ranks, until someone listens. This is not something to be brushed aside or assume that you are the issue.

      As far as what to tell your daughter, I would also focus on how amazing she is, how she shouldn’t seek others who don’t treat her well, and instead be comfortable being the awesome person that she is blessing the world for being. She truly doesn’t need the approval of anyone, least of all other children who don’t respect her.

      I hope that you find a solution for your little girl.

    2. This hurt my heart reading this! Sadly it took me back to my own time at school with three beautiful little girls of my own. kids can be awfully mean and excessively hurtful; they can only be totally ignorant of how deep they emotionally wound another child. I can only assume some of these horrible children are the ones who grow up to be the selfish horrible adults who equally walk amongst us. I think what Nina advises is spot on, good luck to you and I hope your lovely child feels a lot happier very soon, she sounds lovely and very mature how she handles the situation publicly.

    3. I empathize with your situation, and do not know you or your child however I feel I must state the obvious to parents: “life is not fair”, that children are not cherubs, they’re brutally honest, they are very observant and are obviously picking up on some cues.

      Just think of yourself, out of all the parents you didn’t know before school started, how many other parents do you socialize with? What makes one choose their spouse and not even give a second look to another?

      There are different personalities, behaviors, clothes, attributes, and simply the way a person looks and carries their self.

      Parents, let’s look at the reality of whether your child has an alpha personality, comfortable in their skin, is good-looking or not, elocutes funny, dresses weird, is not “cool”, or just plain strange or off-putting.

      The world has different categories and it is not a level playing field. Some are born with more, others less (looks, charisma, empathy, etc). There are leaders and followers, there are the worker bees and the directors.

      Message to parents, the harsh reality is that only you love your children.

      I raise my children to be secure in what they do, struggle to differentiate right from wrong, try to give them the best opportunity without spoiling them, and make them fully aware that life is not fair, esp now that we the parents ( and teachers) are ones making the rules.
      I do not force her to invite children from her class that she is not friendly with, also do not attend parties of those kids. My 6 yo is already a young lady with strong opinions and I will not force her to play with anyone she doesn’t want to in her own time.

      Your child is getting an early lesson on life, others may not learn this until later, after they’ve been accustomed to being “in” and they will fall further.

      Did your parents have these concerns about you? Are you a helicopter parent that is not raising a child but rather programming?

    4. Dear Nick, i had tears rolling down my cheeks after reading aboutnyour daughter. I cannot imagine what you as her unconditionally loving parent must be going through. I have had similar experiences with my daughter. Though not as extreme as yours. And i have intervened when i felt it should be done before there a damage hard to reverse. But then it was in the neighbourhood setting where i could actively intervene. And i understand you cannot since it is the school setting. But i want to tell you something. Never let your child internalize this rejection. Never let her believe she is to blame for the rejection. Let her beautiful bright personality outshine the meanness of the world and stand out. I’m hopeful she will be valued later for her qualitied. Life can take a beautiful turn at any point and surprise us. Give her hope and point out to her all the goodness she carries. I agree with Nina. Try to reach higer authorities and the parents. I’m sure not all the girls and all the parents will be same. Pick out the nice ones and speak to them. Mostly one leading child tends to influence other kids to follow them. Identify who is who and which parent is open to listening to. Stay patient and make her feel secure in herself and inside the family and that will reflect in her friendships later in life. May God bless your duaghter and she shines in life.

  4. Thanks for this article, Nina. My son is 8 years old and has literally grown up with the kids in our building, almost same age and have played with each other since they were toddlers. In recent past, I had to speak to one of his friends’ mom because he was hitting my son in his stomach and trying to bully him. The bullying stopped but his mother told her kids not to be friends with my son and to not play with him. There is a girl in the group, older than others who is very dominating and shrewd. She is reaching adolescence so her bullying has kind of increased and my son stands up against bullying. Just a few days after I had spoken to this boy’s mom, my husband had to intervene between these kids because this girl was instigating others to not play with him and he came crying upstairs. Both the incidents happened within two weeks and now has left my son getting rejected by everyone. He is shocked, I don’t know if our getting involved was right or wrong, but at that moment it seemed to have been the only option. He tried couple of days going to them and playing with them but they are indifferent. We have decided to engage him in other activities and try to divert his attention from these kids but it’s not easy since he can hear them playing downstairs in the evening which is very disturbing for him. Don’t know how long this will continue but it’s certainly draining us emotionally. Personally I wouldn’t want my kid to play with children whose parents are poisoning their minds and where the kids have started ignoring him. But when I look at my son, my heart aches because these are the same children who he has known ever since he was 1.

    1. Nina Garcia says:

      Oh Tina, I’m so sorry you’re going through this! It’s such a shame that the other children and their parents can unravel several years’ worth of friendship. I can’t believe that one incident would make them turn their backs. I wonder if there’s a way you can do a play date with one child that your son is closest to, to break apart the group settings a little bit, and hopefully this whole thing can blow over. I think it’s also a good idea like you said to introduce him to new activities and friends, so that he doesn’t tie his identity or worth to the neighborhood kids. It’s especially hard because they’re neighbors, not exactly easy to ignore. My heart goes out to you, and I hope that they can rekindle their friendship once again.

    2. Hi Tina

      I totally agree with Nina that should try to arrange one on one play dates with the kids in the group who your son likes. I would add that if u too think that those kids are otherwise nice to your son when not under the influence of the girl and their parents are not nasty ones, then do not give up on those friendships. It is always likely that the children in groups often have only a couple of true buddies in the group that makes them be a part of it. I do not always think that adult intervention should not be there especially when the kids on the opposite side are purposefully, repeatedly rejecting your child and there is serious psychological, emotional harm and physical danger. Intervening at the right time is important after identifying the real problem. So, i would also suggest that you foster one on one friendships with the nicer kids of the lot. That will hopefully prevent further damage. All the best !

  5. Canadianllamagirl says:

    I’m concerned for my daughter and wonders if you have a related post to dealing with a reoccurring situation of peer rejection? We gave a small girl who is from a different culture that we are family friends with. She continually says she wont play with my daughter, tells her she is weird, and runs away from her when other friends are visiting. My daughter is very social and loves to play. I have seen this little girl also refuse to say with anyone and hide. I know she isn’t happy. I’ve tried explaining to my daughter that the other girls heart is not happy. That she can just continue to try make friends but it has happened now so much I’m considering not visiting this family any more. Do you have any suggestions?

    1. Nina Garcia says:

      Hi there, I’m so sorry your daughter has to go through this. Have you spoken to the other child’s parents about your concerns? I would continue to bolster your daughter and remind her that this other girl’s comments have more to do with the other girl than anything at all with your daughter. Still, if it’s too painful for her, I wouldn’t push them to play together, and encourage her to find other children to be friends with.

  6. Cher mama bear says:

    My 8.5 yr old son put himself out there and made a friend in camp but towards the end of the 2nd week. His friend turned on him and saying he is too young to play with them. The kids are 9.5 and 10. He really wanted to play with them but just turned away. The next couple of days he said, they said I’m not too young to play they just don’t want to play with me. It just broke my heart. The mom bear inside me just wants to end the camp but then this is kind of like a teaching moment. Like it’s better that he experience this now and do the step above to support him. Kids do recover fast but parents don’t. I just wished the next couple of days would’ve blown over but it didn’t. The kids are persistent that they don’t want him playing with them but when his friend that turned on him wasn’t there the other kids would play with him. So if this happens again, should I take him out of camp or talk to the teen counselors? I doubt they know what to do. I just feel so bad that

    1. Nina Garcia says:

      Oh I’m so sorry to hear this, Cher! It IS heartbreaking, but like you said, definitely a learning moment for him. I think you can talk to the counselors to see if they notice bullying happening, and also equip your son with tools of what to do and also finding other kids to play with. He can even simply find something that interests him, without the pressure of finding friends. Many kids will naturally be curious about what a child is doing, especially if he’s so focused on the task. And remind him that he can’t change what other kids do, just what he can do and how he responds. Usually the more he can “shrug it off,” the less other kids will feel compelled to keep egging him on. It’s almost like kids will only keep making an issue of it if they sense that their behaviors affect the child. Fingers crossed he will enjoy the rest of camp regardless of what those kids do. <3

  7. We finally have a chance to have a family gathering since the pandemic started. My boys are four and 6 years old. They where desperately wanting a play date with their cousin which he is 6 years old. When we went my kids were ready to play, they even took him a toy so they could play all together. But to our surprise the little boy had a phone. which he wouldn’t even put down to play with them. My youngest was OK with that because he can play by himself. But my oldest was really sad, And kept bothering us that he wanted to leave.
    OK I tell my son the first time He needs to understand that his cousin doesn’t want to play at the moment. That he sometimes feels the need to be alone. Until we left I realized that he had a phone and didn’t even put it down to say bye. We where really sad and disappointed.
    The other day they asked us if they could come over to our house so the kids can play. Of Course I said no.
    Still angry from last time we went. I told my husband, (Why do they want to come just to use her Wi-Fi.) But eventually I’m not gonna be able to say no forever. what can we do then? Note: My kids do not have electronics they only watch TV.

    1. Nina Garcia says:

      That is definitely tough, especially because it’s family. I think you have to ask yourself what these get-togethers are for, and whether they’re exclusively for your kids to play with their cousin. If so, then you can establish house rules, saying that everyone (even including adults) should be gadget-free for the time being. You might even phrase it as something fun and quirky you’re trying. If it’s to get together with your other relatives regardless of whether the boy is on his phone or not, then I would downplay the “play date” part of it and just make it about hanging out with his aunt and uncle. And maybe in having fun as a group, the other adults can see that they really should have their son get off the phone in social gatherings.

      I know what you mean, though. We’ve been in situations where our kids—who also don’t own gadgets, but even if they do, wouldn’t be allowed to use them in social settings—were with other kids who were glued to their gadgets. It’s definitely awkward, and what I do is I just focus on hanging out with my kids so that they don’t feel compelled to sit around with the kids on their phones.

  8. Mom-Of-Two says:

    Thank you for your article but here’s my dilemma: we just moved from one state to another with our 21mo and 5yo son. On our street there are older boys than him and the youngest is 3y years older. He played with them few times very nicely, they even came to his bday party and after that it all stopped. We live in the middle of their houses so every day during the summer my son sees them running back and forth. None of them will come to ask for him and even when we are in the backyard he wants to play with them but we are trying To explain that he needs to be invited. We already found him run down the street after them- he’s 5, so we are trying to teach him that he can’t do it without asking us first. Boys see him, hear him but don’t approach him. He says very often that he wants to play with them. The way I see it I don’t want him to be rejected, I don’t want him to be hurt, I don’t want him to chase them just to be turned down. How do I approach the issue? How do I talk to my 5 yo that the other older boys might not want to play with him because he’s younger- and trust me, we understand the age difference.
    Or is it just in my head? Am I just overthinking the whole situation? Of course, as any mom, I want my kids to be accepted, liked and secured with bunch of friends around them.
    What should we do as parents in situation like this?

    1. Nina Garcia says:

      I do think that sometimes we moms project the worst scenario before anything has even happened. When you get into that worried mindset, remind yourself that those kids probably aren’t even thinking about your son in a “rejection” type of way. They’re likely involved in their own play, but might not think to invite him. We see kids all the time in our neighborhood and kids don’t always invite any time they see one another, but that doesn’t mean they think ill will toward them, either.

      I think we all have a fear of our kids being rejected, which can be painful for parent and child. But any time your son faces rejection of any sort, allow him to go through the experience instead of trying to prevent it from happening. That way, he develops resilience and confidence, and will brush it off rather than taking it personally.

      One thing you can do is to invite kids to play, whether those neighborhood kids or other kids his age. That way, you’re not waiting for an invite, but extending it to others 🙂

  9. Thank you so much very helpful advice ! You cover everything!

    1. Nina Garcia says:

      I’m so glad to hear that, Sandy—thanks for letting me know 🙂

  10. Hi I’m desperately needing tips on how to talk to my daughter about peers rejection due to a physical disability(She’s a double amputee at the knees and wear prosthetic legs) . My daughter is in middle school now and all through out schooling my daughter has expressed the need of wanting friends outside of school. I’ve tried to help by having her write down my phone number and giving it to her friends no one called. I even went out to buy her a phone thinking that will work(plus making her more relatable to her peers since most of her classmates have cellphones) and had her give out her number no one still haven’t called. She’s been feeling down and expressed to me that she’s been feeling sad about it. I see how the kids treat her and exclude her because of her disability. As she’s getting older she’s starting to realize that or hit that it “must” be her. I try to reassure her as much as possible but I understand that it’s human nature to want to belong. My question is how can I get her to appreciate her disability more instead of seeing it as an obstacles and a friend blocker?

    1. Nina Garcia says:

      Hi Shea, I’m so sorry your daughter is going through this. I have no experience with this myself, but what if she meets others who also feel the same, those who might have a disability themselves? That way she knows she’s not alone and can have others to relate to. Another option might be to attend “teen” events at the library. For instance, some libraries might have crafts for teens, and if she goes regularly, she can hopefully build rapport with others, too.

  11. Thank you for the help. Is there any books your recommend for my 4 year old to also read about?

    1. Nina Garcia says:

      Hi Stacy! Check out my article on children’s books about friendship!

  12. I just came across this article. My 3.5 year old son is precocious, adorable and super friendly. He has an extremely kind and sensitive heart; although he is full of energy and can come across as the wild sort, he actually can’t bear to see people upset. Even when a baby cries because they’re hungry or something (or even in a movie!), he gets very concerned. He’s also very sensitive toward what other people say and do to him, despite his happy-go-lucky nature.

    For the last 6 months, he (along with a few other kids) has been bullied by other kids at his preschool. Although the preschool has tried to be on top of the situation by teaching him how to react to bullying and by keeping him and the main bully apart as much as possible, there have still been incidents. I stayed with him a bit this morning after I dropped him off, and I noticed that while he went straight to where other kids were playing, as soon as he came, they went away. Some even said, “Let’s play somehwere else.”

    If he followed them to another play station, they left and went somewhere else. He is so kind, sociable and would be such a great friend. Why won’t the other kids play with him? It broke my heart to see how they were all excluding him, even if they were too intimidated to outright bully while I was in the room.

  13. My 9 year old daughter is learning things from her peers that are way too ahead of their maturity level. I’m constantly telling her that she doesn’t need to act certain ways and say certain things to be “cool”. I’m always reassuring her of how wonderful and smart she is, but I’m still getting some attitude and kickback from her.

    1. Nina Garcia says:

      It’s definitely rough when kids start to emulate their peers and value their opinion and guidance more than ours. In some ways, it’s healthy and okay—they might have different tastes in music and fashion as their parents. But when it conflicts with the values we’re trying to teach—such as kindness and respect—that’s when it becomes a problem.

      You can’t control and be there for every interaction she has with others, but what you CAN do is to set boundaries within your home, including how you expect to be treated. Start by calmly yet firmly letting her know that that’s not how we speak to one another in this home. Explain why you uphold those expectations. You can also say why you think other kids might be behaving the way they do (for instance, kids who say mean things when they lose a game might not know how to lose gracefully, or that’s what they see their parents doing).

      And of course, model the behavior you want her to adopt, not just within your family but how you talk to everyone including strangers, and how you talk ABOUT others like gossiping. The more you focus on mutual respect, the less she’ll rely on her peers for guidance and support.