“Mom, I just don’t fit in…”

Many children feel like they don’t fit in at some point. Even adults feel that way occasionally: We all experience being “alone in a room full of people.”

With kids, the need to be part of a group is instinctual; it’s survival. They want to fit in and be like everyone else because it gives them a sense of safety and security. So, when your child tells you they don’t fit in, they’re also saying, “I’m vulnerable.”

Your child is going to feel like the problem is huge so you have to be the one to say, “I’m sorry. That’s hard,” and then bring it down to its right size.

When your child is getting picked on for being different (whether actual or perceived) know that it’s excruciatingly painful for him or her. But you also need to realize as a parent that you can’t fix it; there’s nothing that you can say or do in the immediate moment that’s going to take that pain away. So, don’t waste time or energy looking for a single solution. Instead, start working with your child to give them the skills they need to solve the problem they’re facing right now.

So, what is your role as a parent in this situation? One job is to balance reassurance with coaching. When talking to your child, remind them that a lot of other kids have gone through the same thing and made it through okay. Give them some perspective on the issue, the knowledge that this is not the end of the world. Also, in your own mind, don’t let it be the end of the world.

This is the time to be a coach and teacher to your child. Coaches reinforce and remind kids of skills that have already been acquired. Teachers help kids identify and develop the skills they need to solve an individual problem. It’s a powerful thing to be able to help your child identify and solve his or her problems because you’re giving them a tool that will aid them the rest of their lives.

You also need to continue setting limits even if your child is feeling bad or down. Let them know you still expect them to carry out their responsibilities and complete their tasks. If they’re upset after school, you may give them a few minutes and then get started with homework. The limit-setting function of a parent is very important during these times. You can be loving and concerned, but it’s up to you to keep this problem in perspective. Your child may make the problem huge, so you have to be the one to empathize and then bring it down to its right size. That way, your child is still being responsible and still keeping up with the tasks in his or her life.

There are times when the tools you have to coach and teach your child are not enough. There are also times that children have a difficult time accepting this help from their parents. Here at In Step we have a multi-faceted approach using the Stepping Stones approach to Raise your Child’s Social IQ and support you as parents. Please contact us with any questions or concerns you may have as this school year begins. We are here to help and support you.