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Ages & Stages

Problems With Peers: How to Help Your Child Navigate Social Challenges

Once your child starts school, it's normal to face problems with classmates from time to time. One of the most common social challenges is when a child feels rejected by their peers. When this happens, your support and intervention can make a big difference to your child.

When your child feels left out

If your child comes home upset and crying that "everyone is being mean to me at recess and in the cafeteria," keep in mind that they are not alone. Most children have conflicts with their friends and end up feeling pushed away at some point. Your reassurance can comfort them until things get back to normal.

Let your child know that you are sen­sitive to how difficult this situation is for them, and that you are going to help them figure out ways to make things better. Give them a clear message that you are on their side and are going to help.

Social rejection: factors that may play a role

Rejection by a child's peers may be a group reaction to someone they see as different. It may also result from inappropriate behavior on the part of one or both parties that needs to be addressed.

For older students who have internet access or smartphones, social networking can contribute to bullying even outside of school. Schools have become more aware of and proactive regarding students' online interactions. But you can take steps you can take to help prevent cyberbullying.

Help prevent cyberbullying

Delay buying your child an electronic device; it is easier to begin with limits and restrictions on any device before loosening the reins, so to speak. Create a family media plan and set healthy limits on your child's use of electronic devices; be aware of your child's apps and social media accounts, including those that aim to keep information away from parents.

If problems continue, talk with your child's teacher

If there seems to be a pattern of rejection, schedule an appointment with your child's teacher. Consider requesting that the principal or guidance counselor attend the meeting. Ask them to gather information from the recess and lunch aides about what is happening.

Talk with your child's pediatrician

When you feel you have enough information, you may want to consult with your child's pediatrician, who is familiar with your child's developmental patterns.

More information

Last Updated
Adapted from Caring for Your School-Age Child: Ages 5 to 12, 3rd edition (Copyright © 2018 American Academy of Pediatrics)
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
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