Of course you want your student to be an individual who is not a slave to peer pressure, but a sense of belonging is essential to the health and wellbeing of every student. If your student feels like they don’t fit in, there are ways in which you can encourage greater social interaction so that they feel part of a group and enjoy a happy social life. Students who do have a healthy social circle will do better academically.
A sense of self-worth
Foster a sense of self-identity in your student by providing positive reinforcement. Focus on their strengths and encourage them to find an identity through what they wear and what they think. Teach them that being generous and kind to everyone, regardless of the clique or group they come from, is the best way to make friends.
As students mature, they may be going through difficult social situations or bullying without telling you because they fear your involvement. Often students don’t want advice or are afraid that you will take action that will embarrass them. Instead, practice active listening — listen to your students without offering advice or criticizing. Instead, try phrases like: “It sounds like you had a really bad day…”, “I’m so sorry that happened to you…” or “I hear what you are saying…” Active listening is a great way to get your student to communicate; you can monitor the situation to see if they are experiencing any bullying or if they are managing on their own. Establishing communications can be really tricky with older students, so persevere. If your students ask for advice, be constructive rather than critical. Active listening is really challenging for parents as they want to make things better. Instead you have to separate your needs from what your student needs. Establishing a connection is more important so that your student will turn to you when they are in real trouble or in need of help. Resist the urge to solve problems or dispense advice in favor of creating connections.
Check in with teachers
If you notice a change in your student’s behavior or circle of friends, check in with their teachers to see if they are doing ok. Teachers and councilors can help you get an insight into events at school and how best to deal with them. Periods of not fitting in socially are completely normal. Perhaps your student has changed grades or schools or maybe they have had a falling out with their clique. Learning to deal with these changes and learning to fit in are all part of growing up. It’s difficult for parents because they often have insights they want to share or solutions to their student’s problems and they have a natural desire to want to help their children. It’s important to maintain a connection with your students, so often you will have to listen to them and resist the urge to get involved. That way, when they really need help, they know they can come to you and are more likely to do so.