Your daughter has come home from school and told you that she had to sit alone at the lunch table and how you are wondering how to handle your child feeling left out. I am sure your heart sunk looking at her sad face, as she told you the story. Or maybe all of your son’s friends got invited to a birthday party, and he was the only one to not get an invitation. Before you jump into protective mom mode, wait a second. This is a great teachable and learning moment for both of you. Let’s talk about how to handle your child feeling left out.
Handling Your Child Feeling Left Out
It is in our nature as parents to want to fix our child’s problems and make them feel better, but we are not doing a very good job of preparing them for life when we do that (which is ultimately our job right?) Life is not all puppy dogs and roses, you have to allow your child to feel those negative feelings. While it might be easy to say something like ‘Everything will be OK,’ try to avoid that knee-jerk reaction and say something like ‘I understand how you feel’. I know with my child; she seems to feel a little better if I validate her feelings, even if it is not something I have experienced myself.
Name that feeling
When your child was younger, you taught him about anger and sadness, but he hadn’t yet experienced jealousy or humiliation. Those fun things come with age. Have a conversation about how he is feeling, and help him to label his emotions. He might be feeling angry yes, but what else is he feeling? Let him know too that you have felt the same way at times; I am sure you have a story you can share with him about a time you felt left out by your friends. If you haven’t, well, good for you I guess, you completely skipped over that part of growing up.
Tomorrow is a new day
While this is obvious to you and me, your child needs to be reminded that this feeling and what happened to make him feel this way, is only temporary. Kids (and adults, let’s be honest) have a way of globalizing their feelings and saying things like, ‘My whole life stinks.’ Your job is to explain that this is a temporary situation. He will not be sitting alone at lunch forever, he will not be the last picked for games forever, it is just not the case. I know that a good night’s sleep often helps me to gain a little perspective on something that is bothering me. This could hold true for your child as well.
The bottom line is that growing up is tough, and when we have kids, it is almost like we are going through it all over again. This time, we have a bit more knowledge but have to hold back on the knee-jerk reaction to fix the situation for our little human.