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Now that your child has entered middle school, you've probably noticed she has a tight knit group of friends. But, as much as we want our kids to have friends, beware of groups known as cliques. Cliques may foster feelings of peer pressure and insecurity in teens and tweens.

While a group of friends is like a democracy, a clique is similar to a monarchy, with one or two leaders running the show.

Cliques and Peer Pressure

Cliques almost always cause problems for teens that long to be a part of them. Cliques welcome only a few members and exclude others based on weight, looks, disabilities, race, or ethnicity, and the clique "leader" may implement unhealthy or harmful rules. Even if you don't want your teen or tween to be part of a clique, she may long to feel that sense of belonging. If she is rejected or ostracized from a particular group, she may feel upset and alone. Follow these steps to help your child survive middle school and high school cliques:

  • Be open and non-judgmental. The last person your child wants judging her is her parents. Ask questions like, "Why do you think that group gets along so well?" or "What do you think that competiveness is about?"
  • Talk about your own experiences. Cliques have been around forever and every teenager has dealt with them.
  • Encourage out-of-school friendships. Maybe it's time to get your teen involved in extracurricular activities that aren't sponsored by her school or encourage her to be involved in other social groups. This will give her the opportunity to interact with other kids who may be dealing with school cliques as well.
  • Build self-worth. Help her recognize her best qualities and together you can celebrate them.
  • Shed light on social dynamics. Explain why school peers might be acting this way, i.e., they have low self-confidence, so they feel the need to put others down. Although this might not instantly help the situation improve, it's an important lesson for the future.

Unfortunately, Cliques are Inevitable

Yes, it's true, cliques are a normal part of growing up. Kids can be mean to each other in ways that may surprise you, but it's important to let your child try to solve the issue before you implement the help of school officials. With your support, your teen or tween will be better prepared to handle these situations, considering it is something she will be dealing with throughout her life.