A Clique First-Aid Kit

Explain cliques and their mean maneuvers to your child as in terms of power and control, not friendship. Since everyone this age feels insecure, they struggle with being accepted. Some try to forget their own negative self-image by controlling others. Some attempt to make themselves feel better by ridiculing the shortcomings of others. Witnesses of the persecution don't speak up or rush to defend a victim, even a good friend, for fear of being rejected, or worse, targeted next. Ask your child to observe the central features: Who is included? Who is not? Who decides? Who agrees? Does anyone ever disagree? Have a discussion about what happens if someone reaches out to rescue a shunned victim.

Immediately reassure your child that being shunned is not her fault. Tell her that she did nothing wrong as take care to make sure she knows that real friends will like her just the way she is. Girls who are socially ridiculed develop negative body images, concluded Dr. L. Kris Gowen after studying 157 girls between the ages of ten and thirteen. Victimized girls mistakenly think, if they were just prettier or thinner, then they wouldn't be teased. Tell your child that this kind of mean-spirited torment is unfortunately part of early adolescence. Unless young adolescent girls are taught that the teasing is not their fault, they can come away permanently scarred and may spend the rest of their lives trying to understand their humiliation episodes.

The sea of confessions from mothers who, to this day, recall vividly their own similar war stories has truly amazed us. Even celebrities, famous for beauty, charm and achievement, such as Kim Basinger and Hillary Rodham Clinton, have gone on record with tales of preadolescent trauma. Share your own memories of scapegoating.

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