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Ask a Professional: My child keeps getting excluded at school

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Ask a Professional: My child keeps getting excluded at school

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My 15 year old was anxious about starting school because of friend issues the year before. Finally school is in and once there finds another group to hang out with. She was super excited as they finally included her in everything. They even registered for all the same classes and took seats next to each other in classes.

Today one of the 5 girls gave her a note saying that all but one of the girls had decided that her personality didn't mix with the group and they thought that she should maybe not hang around with them anymore. They were too uncomfortable to tell her to her face.

Not sure what to do as she came home in tears. I just don't understand it. All adults who meet her love her and say what a sweetheart she is and how deep and intellectual she is. Yet this is the second group of girls in a year who have shunned her. Now she needs to go back to school on Monday and face them in her classes. Not sure what to tell her. At a loss. My heart breaks for her. 

Hi @Murphy192 ,

It can be such a painful experience, to not be accepted as part of a group. We’re social beings, and not feeling accepted and liked is very upsetting. Your daughter must be so hurt, with this happening after problems last year.

I can understand why you would be feeling at a loss. This issue is a tricky one for parents, because there are large parts of the situation which are out of your control and out of your daughter’s control.

Often, the thing that can be most helpful when dealing with a painful situation which is hard to change is expressing your support, and acknowledging her distress and the unfairness of the situation. It doesn’t seem like enough, but when it comes to the immediate pain of rejection, it generally isn’t possible to remove the pain entirely (much as we may wish to) and it’s more about supporting her through it, and in doing so helping her develop her ability to cope with life’s challenges.

It can help to provide a space for her to talk if she wants to about how she is feeling about this, but if she doesn’t feel like talking about it then spending time together doing something you both enjoy can help her feel loved and supported.

She may be struggling with worry that she will never find a friendship group, or that this is a sign that something is wrong with her. It’s actually very common for people to experience social exclusion at some point in their lives, and sometimes it just means that this wasn’t the right fit for her, and there isn’t anything more than bad luck behind it. Unfortunately, friendship groups at school can be quite arbitrary at times, there isn’t always a clear or fair reason.

If it does seem to be an ongoing problem for her, it may be worth considering other social supports she may have. Does she have friends outside of school? If she is involved in any hobbies or group activities, this can be a great way to meet peers she will have things in common with.

In terms of her having social support at school, it may not necessarily be about joining another ‘group’ of friends right away, but focusing on people who she has positive interactions with, and seeing if she can build from there. There may be other students who don’t really have a group to hang out with yet, who may really enjoy building a friendship with your daughter.

For some young people who have persistent difficulties with friendships, it can be worth exploring whether there are any patterns of behaviour which might be making it harder for them to find a group of friends. I don’t know if this is relevant for your daughter, but thought it important to mention as it is relevant for some teens. You mention she gets along really well with adults. If you have the opportunity to notice her interactions with people the same age, taking some time to observe and see what you notice might be helpful.

Sometimes things which work well with one group may not be as welcome with another. For instance, adults may find her ability to look at things at a deeper level impressive, but her peers might find it intimidating, or it could be out of step with what they want to talk about. Another common issue is that if someone is feeling anxious about making friends, this can make it hard to be relaxed and friendly, and so they might seem a bit withdrawn, which other people might interpret as being unfriendly or cold.

If you do notice anything that might be getting in the way of her peers recognising your daughter’s great qualities, then small changes can make a big difference. For instance, if your daughter struggles with shyness, then there are some tips here for young people: 

Problems with friends are really common, and lots of young people bounce back from this kind of disappointment with a little time, without the need for any intervention. If your daughter continues to seem really down about things, or if you do think she may benefit from having someone to talk to about these difficulties with friendships, talking to a counsellor could be helpful for her.

Best wishes,


Linda is a psychologist experienced in working with people across the lifespan, including teenagers and their families ,in a variety of settings, and is ReachOut's Clinical Lead.


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