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Social problems at school: How and when to jump in

By Amanda Morin

If kids are having a social problem at school, how involved should you get? There’s no set answer to that question. Each situation is different. Here are some basic things to consider.

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  • How old is the child? Younger kids may not have the experience or maturity to handle social problems on their own. Older kids may be embarrassed to have adults fight their battles for them.

  • Does the child have the skills to handle this? If you’re sure kids know what to do, let them do it themselves.

You can’t always keep kids from having their feelings hurt. But it helps to validate what they’re going through, and to let them know you’re on their side. If you tell them that’s just how it goes and not everyone is going to like them, they may feel unlikeable and that their feelings don’t matter.

Remind kids there are different kinds of friends, too. For example, are they close and into the same things, or are they just school friends? Understanding this helps kids set appropriate expectations on friendships. It can also help them tell the difference between bullying and teasing

By knowing when and how to get involved, you give kids the chance to learn how to handle problems themselves. You can even troubleshoot some problems by role-playing common social situations.

Dive deeper

When kids say the teacher is picking on them

Is the teacher really singling them out, or are kids misreading the situation? You weren’t there to know. If you tell kids to just work it out with the teacher, they may think you’re not on their side. If you run to confront the teacher, kids may think you’ll jump to the rescue no matter what the situation.

Talk with kids about how they can approach the teacher. (You can always intervene later.) This way, kids know you want to get to the truth and you’re willing to help. But they also get to be part of the solution and learn how to  self-advocate .

Finding the balance between “too involved” and supportive

If you tell kids some people are jerks and to just ignore them, they may feel like they can’t come to you for help. But if you confront a bully or call the child’s parents, kids may keep things from you because they think you’ll overreact.

It’s important for kids to learn problem-solving and  coping skills . The more you jump in, the less opportunity they have. The trick is to find a middle ground where kids get the guidance they need while also learning how to handle situations on their own.

Explore more about the balance between fostering independence and being overprotective .

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