A Clique First-Aid Kit

Turn your child from victim to victor. Admit that you can't always make the painful drama disappear. You can talk to your child's middle school teacher, who can work to eliminate the behavior in the school. Brainstorm with your child to get her to identify options. This is hard, to be sure. It's not easy as picking up her lunch tray and sitting at another table in the cafeteria. Middle school is no picnic.

However, there are choices. She can ignore the tormentors rather than trying to befriend them again. She can start looking for new friends, among the boys in school, or in groups outside of school. You want to explode the image of powerlessness your daughter may have for herself, along with a belief that she is at the mercy of others. This twelve-year-old girl's reasoning is healthy: "I figure I have other friends, so if I have one or two less, it won't kill me." All adolescents need a view that includes possibility.

Don't join the fray. Some mothers telephone the offending girl's mother. What begins as a mature and logical step can turn the clique crisis into an adult catfight. That's what happened with two 10-year-old classmates in a Detroit suburb. The young pair had a history of name-calling and harassing phone calls, which soon got their mothers involved. Did this intervention help? Hardly. The moms made headlines with "Sugar and Spite and a Legal Mess Not Nice." Each, taking her child's side, took the social umbrage to the level of police reports, court orders and legal trials.

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