This article defines the construct of social peer rejection as the problem that strucks parents and kids on each level of youngsters emotional development. Social peer rejection entails being rejected, excluded, ostracized, or criticized by one's peers; lack of active sympathy and active dislike on the part of one's peers; ignoring; preventing access to friends, playtime activities, toys, or important information; verbal aggression; commands; and blaming the rejected child.
Every adult person who deals with social processes at school, work and other public places, needs to face the same conflicts as our kids from time to time. Being rejected or feeling insulted is harmful enough for most grownups even though we’ve obviously managed to deal with it thanks to years of experience. We developed some mechanisms to prevent ourselves from bullying . But it took years of experiences and struggle. Kids are even more unlikely to cope it. How to make them feel comfortable and safe when it comes to mix with the group of their peers with no such experience at all? And what if the disappointment with the new experience comes first instead of satisfaction and safety?
To answer this question it is reasonable to ask: Why is the group of youngsters so hermetic and relentless? Who is dissatisfied more with the fact that my child is maybe an outsider? Am I always as sociable person as I expect my kids to be? How being rejected during school years influenced my personality? How does my happiness depend on others’ acceptation?
These questions bring a wonderful sentence on my mind. To quote it after Padraig O’Morain, undisputed expert on the field of social processes in groups:
“It doesn’t have to be alright to be alright.” Nevertheless we have to do something when children complain that something is wrong in the group and they suffer from the solitude and loneliness.
First suggestion for parents who want to react for their kids claims is to think it over carefully, to deal with themselves first. Parents can deny the problem to avoid the confrontation. So do their kids. It’s very important to react mindfully and respectfully while the very fact, the incident may be a shock. Following the Internet forums for parents we can easily find people with the same problem. Their respondents are more or less supportive. Sometimes people seem to be even oppressive in their responses. The answer for the problem becomes obvious as soon as we find out kids just copy their parents reactions. It is also worth to ask our pupils to describe situations in the group many times in many ways. The more you ask in different situations (safety and time is important here) the more you can discover about the true conflict. Sometimes kids say they do not want to go to school anymore, they declare belly or headaches, others cry and beg for staying home. This is the sign that something doesn’t work properly.
The next step is a decision to clear up the situation with sitters in the kindergarten to ask for their observations and opinion. It is is a good way to understand not only your kids but also the whole process including daily routines and other kids situation in the group. You can find out important facts and what is more important- sensitize more people to the problem. It is really substantial to understand that the rejection of one kid in the group isn’t really that particular child’s problem but all people involved to the care.
This is also a good way to focus a bit on the group problem. To find out more about other kids, their social abilities, their individuality, personality and sensitivity. Sometimes the more sensitive but oppressed is individual, the more eagerly they react disrespectfully toward others after a long process of being bullied. That’s is why it is worth to find out if the “attacker” was not really a “victim”.
The more sources of conflict you discover, the easier and better will be your communication with the teachers, parents and kids. You can understand it better and help your child. Your impact on the group will be stronger. The solution will be in your hands.
Ignorance and ostracism in the group is perceived as being even more painful than verbal conflict itself because it at least is a kind of interaction. Do not let your kid suffer and let others know what is wrong from your point of view. The more you find out about the situation the better and the more tactfully you will react, the safer will your kid be amongst others.
I risk the thesis that the priority for each parent when they bring their kids to school is to prevent their kids from feeling sad and rejected. We all hope for the same things so trust is the best way to solve the problem.
“We, the group, reject you. Because we are the only group that matters, consider yourself rejected by the world”.
Autor: Anna - Absolwentka studiów licencjackich Pedagogika Przedszkolna i Wczesnoszkolna oraz studiów magisterskich ze specjalizacją Wczesne Nauczanie Języka Angielskiego na Uniwersytecie Warszawskim.