Help your child increase resilience to social pain

November 30, 2022

It’s upsetting when your child tells you that others have been mean to him. It’s also natural to want to protect your child from hurt. But as children learn to socialize, they need to learn to cope with a degree of “normal” social pain.

For example, a scenario would be when your child tells you that other boy wouldn’t let him join in their game at break time.

’They’re being mean to me!’’

Kids can be mean.They’re impulsive and their empathy isn’t fully developed, so it’s likely that at some point your child will be teased or excluded. Your child might also misinterpret neutral or thoughtless actions as deliberate meanness.

‘’Is my child being bullied? Do I need to do something?’’

Not every unkind actcounts as bullying.

Bullying involves deliberate meanness, usually over a period of time and often by a child who is bigger,

tougher, or more socially powerful than the one being targeted. Kids can learn to handle ordinary meanness, but bullying requires adult intervention.

“I’m angry and hurt and a little bit scared. I wish a grown-up would make them be nice to me!”

Learning to handle conflict and ordinary meanness is an essential social skill. Offer comfort and ask what happened, step by step, to discover the details, so you can correct misunderstandings or help your child cope


Ways to respond when your child is facing difficulties with friendships:

  1. Explain that it can change tomorrow. Most conflicts between children are resolved by a brief separation and then just being nice to each other. Tell him that a conflict doesn’t have to mean the end of a friendship, and encourage him to try to have fun with the friend tomorrow.
  2. Model calmness. Kids who have big emotional reactions to teasing are likely to be teased more. Role-play to teach your child bored responses to teasing, such as ‘’So what?’’or ‘’ That’s so funny I forgot to laugh’’.
  3. Help your child to see their part. It’s easy to notice what someone else does wrong, but your child may have trouble seeing his or her contribution to conflicts. Gently help your children figure out if they can do something to make things better, such as listening when someone says stop or not being bossy.
  4. Encourage kind friends. If conflicts are frequent, your child may do better hanging out with kids who they feel good being around. Sometimes children stick with mean friends because they think they don’t have other options. Joining new activities and having playdates can fuel more promising friendships.
  5. Step in if there’s real bullying. If the meanness is ongoing and involves a power difference, you may need to contact the school to help keep your child safe.

Delia Ciobanu

IBSB Student Counsellor