“How can I help my son stop the bullying he's experiencing?”
Dear Annie,My 10 year old is excluded by the majority of his classmates, i.e., when splitting into groups for projects (no one wants him with them) or when picking sides for lunchtime play, they avoid having him on their team. He is being alienated by the "in group." How can I help him stop this before the upcoming teen years when it will only get worse?
Dear Concerned Parent,
Of course it's painful for you to see your child suffering like this and I admire you tremendously for seeking help for this problem.
The kind of social exclusion you're describing is a form of bullying. I would suggest that you immediately talk with your son's teacher. He or she is probably already aware of what's going on (unless the teacher is asleep, this behavior would be hard to miss!). But what the teacher may not be aware of is the pain it's causing your son.
Bottom line here is that the teacher has to take a leadership role. The teacher needs to talk to the students involved in a way that delivers the message in no uncertain terms -- "In this class we help each other. It's never OK to do anything that will intentionally hurt someone else physically. And it's not OK to ever intentionally hurt someone's feelings." If teachers aren't role modeling inclusive behavior (and making these kinds of messages a general part of their social/emotional curriculum) then they are teaching their students something entirely different.
As a parent you need to advocate for your child in this way. (He will get the message that you love him and will always stick up for him, as you should.) If you don't get the desired result from talking to your son's teacher, then take it to the next level and talk with the school principal.
Every student has the right to feel safe in school and it's the school's moral and legal responsibility to make sure that there is zero tolerance to bullying of any kind.
I hope this helps.