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When your child is left out

Jen Klein is a New England-based technical writer and mother of three. When she isn't asking her kids to stop bickering, "caramelizing" the dinner or actively ignoring the dust bunnies under the couch, she enjoys knitting, gardening, pho...

Growing pains

It's a sad reality that at some point, your child will be left out of a gathering of other kids. Whether it's a birthday party or just a game on the playground, every kid I know - and every adult who was once a kid - has been left out at one time or another. It's an awful feeling.

Excluded Girl

When it happens to our kids, our first instinct may be that inner feral mamma-bear response of, "How dare they!" But that response doesn't help the situation. It doesn't turn back time, it doesn't help your child deal with the hard feelings - and it doesn't make the excluders want to include.

Hurt is hurt

No matter how it happens, whether intentionally or unintentionally, being excluded hurts. It may be because there were only so many a child could invite to a birthday party and your child and the birthday child aren't as close as the birthday child and others. It may be because the other kids didn't know your child wanted to play the game. Or it could be very much intentional. No matter what or why, whether or not there's a logical explanation, feeling excluded hurts.

I'm sure you remember how it feels. You can take this opportunity to comfort you child and tell them that, indeed, you do remember that feeling. Then you can talk about strategies for dealing with the situation if it occurs again - constructive ways to voice their feelings to others, if appropriate, or alternate actions to move them out of the situation - starting their own game, maybe. If, for example, the hurt is over a birthday party still to come, you can plan something else to do at the same time, something possibly even more fun.

You child will also exclude

You can also take this time to talk about treating others as you want to be treated. Exclusion, whether intentional or not, happens every day, and almost all of us do it. Most of us learn over time how to be a bit more discreet in that inclusion and exclusion.

You can talk to you child, for example, about not talking about his or her birthday party at school when they can't invite the whole class. And you can talk about working to include everyone in playground activities - and about apologizing when they've hurt someone else's feelings.

Being excluded is a sad part of life. Helping your child through it can be hard for both of you, but you both can learn valuable lessons in the process.

For more on kids and friendships

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