I’ve been a mom long enough to know that watching your kids suffer is way worse than suffering yourself. I’m pretty sure it’s a mom-gene thing. And I don’t think it’s just limited to moms. I’ve watched my husband worry over our kids enough times to realize dads struggle with it too.
That’s especially true when our well-loved and vulnerable children come to us heartbroken because they haven’t been invited to a party, a sleepover, or even a trip to the mall.
If you’re like me, your first inclination might be to disparage the offending party (Who do they think they are not inviting your awesome kid anyway?) or even get on the phone to send some pointed texts or make some pointed calls. But consider modeling a calmer approach to dealing with a hurtful situation. After all, as the old saying goes, “Life is 10% what happens and 90% how you respond to it.”
Here are a few helpful suggestions for how to respond when your teenager is not invited to a party.
Consider These Responses
According to Healthline, here are few things you can help your kids work through when they struggle with being left out of social situations.
1. Accept your emotions. Help your kids know that feeling upset or sad is a normal response, even if others don’t intentionally leave them out. “Taking time to unpack these feelings can help you process them and decide what to do next,” say experts. They suggest activities like journaling, exercising, deep breathing, or taking a calm walk can help your kids work through the hurt.
2. Avoid jumping to conclusions. Look at the situation logically. There could be several reasons for the exclusion. Maybe it was a simple oversight or maybe there were situations you’re not aware of that impacted the decision. Even if it was done intentionally, you don’t know the whole story.
3. Communicate your feelings. Just because you shouldn’t attack in a fit of rage doesn’t mean your kids can’t talk it out with their friends. Teach them skills like using “I feel” statements rather than “You” statements that can be more aggressive. Healthline gives the following example to help get you started.
· Instead of: “You always leave me out! No one ever invites me to anything.”
· Try: “The Zoom movie parties I keep hearing about sound really fun. I feel a little left out because I haven’t been invited to any of them. Is there some reason why? I’d like to join next time, if that’s all right.”
You can’t always control the situation when others’ choices are involved, but you can help your kids control their responses to difficult situations when they arise.
Tips for Strengthening Relationships
Perhaps even better than responding to one-time events, however, is teaching your kids how to strengthen their relationships with their friends so these difficult situations don’t happen as often.
Brooke Romney, author of 52 Modern Manners for Today’s Teens, offers several suggestions for how to help your kids strengthen their relationships with friends.
1. You attract what you put into the world. Romney explains, “If you want more positivity, be more positive. If you want friends who lift you, start lifting others. … If you want more goodness, be the good.” She suggests that if your teenagers are lacking something in their lives, challenge them for one week to do that thing and see if it changes what comes back to them. In the case of feeling left out, encourage them to work on being kind, friendly, a good influence, and most of all, more inclusive with others and see if the ripple effect returns to them.
2. Relationships take time and work. According to a study from the University of Kansas, there’s a formula for creating friendships that last. Romney shares, “It takes 40–60 hours to form a casual friendship, 80–100 hours to transition to a friend, and more than 200 hours to become good friends.” She continues, “Don’t be impatient when it comes to quality connection.”
3. Be inclusive. This is a big one. Teach your kids that no one likes to feel left out. So encourage them to practice inclusion in their daily routine. This could include acknowledging everyone when they approach a group, not blocking others from a group discussion, or not pulling one or two people away from a group. Also, if they don’t know everyone in a group, they can introduce themselves and broaden their circle of friends. Mostly it means encouraging your kids to open their eyes and see the situations around them. If someone looks like they’re on the outside, they probably feel like it too.
4. Find new friends. Finally, if your kids’ friends are always excluding them, maybe the best solution is to find new friends. This is especially hard for teens who struggle with making friends. But a little effort now will pay dividends in the future. Romney explains, “If your friends are always excluding you or making you feel bad, they are the wrong friends. … At first you might feel alone, but there are people out there who will like you for you. Spend time with those who treat you well and want you around. Be the friend you want to have.”
Making It Right
We can’t always solve our kids’ relationship problems. In fact, we shouldn’t even try. Those are skills they need to develop and hone on their own if they want to be resilient. Instead, we can comfort them when they struggle and then get to work teaching them how to work through the challenges so they can create strong personal relationships of their own.
You can find more helpful parenting tips at Troomi.com.