As long as there have been high schools, there have been high school cliques. Teenagers put great emphasis on friends and draw much of their guidance and self-esteem from their group of friends.
A clique, a tightly knit, exclusive group of peers, can be a ready-made source of friends for those who belong, but the groups have become synonymous with shunning outsiders, taunting, bullying and cruel behavior.
There is little a parent can do to shield a teenager from high school cliques. But you can prepare your children to handle whatever comes their way by building up their self-esteem, confidence and independent thinking.
If Your Child is in a Clique
If your child is in a clique, encourage him or her to foster friendships outside the clique. Getting too wrapped up in a clique, and the esteem of the clique's leaders, makes it difficult for teens to make new friends or to be open to others who are different from them. It also leaves your child unprepared for rejection, should the clique reject him or her.
Watch for signs that your child is going along with the group too often, not thinking for herself or being pressured into doing something she wouldn't do on her own. Being in a clique or trying to get into a clique can prevent teens from thinking for themselves and developing any leadership qualities.
Know who is in your child's clique and who the leaders are. If a clique begins to participate in unsafe, unkind or unhealthy behaviors, it may be necessary for parents to step in and limit a child's contact with its members.
If Your Child is Hurt by Cliques
If your child is being bullied or taunted by a clique, talk to your child about it and share your own experiences and how you handled the situation. Be the outsider looking in and give her the perspective of why members of a clique are sometimes cruel to others.
Encourage your child to make friends with new students or other kids at school who don't seem to be part of any specific clique or group. Support your child's efforts to have many different kinds of friends, especially outside of cliques.
Encourage your child to make friends outside of school. Get him or her involved in extra-curricular activities that include kids from other schools.
If the bullying becomes aggressive and you feel your child is being badly hurt or exploited, notify school administrators. If attacks occur online, block the user from your child's account, print out postings and take them to school officials.
Don't let your child miss school or activities because of fear or anxiety over cliques. Cliques are a fact of life. Encourage your teen to face them head on.
What is peer pressure? Any time a teen feels a conflict between what parents and friends expect, peer pressure is the cause.
Negative peer pressure can lead to long-term emotional and physical problems. Understanding how peer pressure works can help parents and teens find ways to deal with it.