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How to help your teen survive the cliques

Remember the days when cliques represented positive groups and gave students better social skills?  Some of these groups were the athletes, the cheerleaders, the class geniuses or even the musicians; each group respected and validated for their respective talents. Unfortunately, on the campuses of many schools today, cliques are now associated with a negative connotation.  According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary (2010), "a clique is a narrow exclusive circle or group of persons."  The emphasis of exclusivity is the dilemma which causes cliques to bring potential harm to those on the outside.  Cliques leave little room for individuality or the acceptance of others which leads to poor self-image and depression for the outsiders.  Recently, cliques affect girls more than boys.  If the situations are not diffused, the outcome may result in violence.  "Since 1992, there have been 220 violent deaths on school grounds," per whole family center, Inc. (2000) http://www.wholefamily.com  Of course, every incident may not be attributable to the negative effects of cliques, but many are so what can be done to help your teen survive the cliques?

The first step is to notice signs of change in your teen.  The effects do not happen overnight, however as time progresses changes such as depression, avoidance of school, withdrawal, anger and sometimes suicide may occur.  According to the National Education Association, http://www.nea.org"160,000 students miss school daily for fear of being taunted;" thus before the extreme signs take hold of your daughter what can be done?

Obviously, talking to your child about what she is feeling or what is happening at school is a start.  As you embark upon the topic, let your child know you want to help and make the conversation one where she wants to be open with you.  Your demeanor is crucial, so listen intently to your child though some scenarios may not be pleasant to hear.  Once the talking begins, help your child identify interests and encourage your daughter to get involved in an activity, so she may have a haven of friends to connect with.

Finally, reach out to other parents and the school to understand what policies are in place and what can be done to minimize the effects of cliques.  Two books which may provide enlightenment on the situation are Nobody Likes Me, Everybody Hates Me, by Michele Borba and Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture Aggression in Girls by Rachel Simmons. In the Valencia area next month, a seminar on this topic is being held.  For more information proceed to Santa-Clarita.com and proceed to the heading Mean Girls.

In short, all cliques are not negative; however, there are enough incidents where change needs to happen.  Knowledge is power and with that knowledge change can occur so school is a positive experience and cliques recapture a positive connotation.

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