How to Help Your Grade-Schooler Handle School Cliques

ByLexi Walters Wright

At a glance

  • As kids grow more independent from their parents, cliques become more important.

  • Cliques tend to become a big factor in kids’ lives around fourth grade.

  • In grade school, kids who form social groups often have a common interest, hobby or skill.

Cliques tend to become a big factor in kids’ lives around fourth grade. But cliques can form even earlier. And as kids approach middle school and become more independent, cliques grow in importance.

In grade school, cliques tend to be made up of friends who have something in common. That might be a hobby, an interest or a skill.

Kids this age may not be welcoming to or patient with a child who seems different or who can’t keep up. But you can help your grade-schooler with learning and thinking differences learn how to cope with cliques. Below are tips on what you can do in some common situations.

Support your child’s strengths.

The scenario: Your child rarely gets invited to his first-grade classmates’ birthday parties. He says, “They think I’m dumb.”

What you can do: Help your child evaluate the situation: Why does he really think he’s being left out? If it’s his behavior, he can work to improve it once he realizes it’s a problem. Offer to help by role-playing social situations with him.

But if his learning differences do seem to be the reason, help him consider his strengths. How might he make friends based on what he’s good at? Create playdates around his interests and talents.

Encourage empathy.

The scenario: At his friend’s sleepover, your child didn’t follow the rules when they played games. And he kept talking when people wanted to sleep. On Monday, the other sleepover guests barely say hello to him at school.

What you can do: Help your child understand why everyone seems upset with him. Walk him through the party’s events. When he reaches a red flag, ask: “What could you have done differently?” Then brainstorm alternatives to prepare him for next time. And reassure him that there will be a next sleepover.

Change the playing field.

The scenario: The kids in your neighborhood ride scooters to and from school together. But your child has motor skills issues and you drive him. He thinks that’s why nobody asks him to play on weekends.

What you can do: Help your son understand that there are things besides scooting that he can do with these kids. Encourage him to invite some over and see what they have in common. Do they like video games? Or dinosaurs? Or Doctor Who? Sharing an interest can help create a bond.

Help your child learn to self-advocate.

The scenario: Your child has issues with writing. He’s allowed to take tests on a computer. His three best friends complain that that’s unfair.

What you can do: Ask your child what he can say to his friends about why he uses a computer. This self-advocacy can make him feel better and educate his friends. Brainstorm casual explanations, like: “Hey, the only way I can get through these tests is on a computer. You should see my handwriting!”

Key takeaways

  • You can help your child figure out ways to connect with people more effectively.

  • Learning to self-advocate can help your child feel more in control and educate other kids.

  • Finding ways to showcase your child’s strengths may help him find like-minded friends.

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About the author

About the author

Lexi Walters Wright is the former community manager at Understood. As a writer and editor, she helps parents make more informed choices for their children and for themselves.

Reviewed by

Reviewed by

Rayma Griffin, MA, MEd has spent 40 years working with children with learning and thinking differences in the classroom and as an administrator.