When Your Child Says, “I Don’t Fit In.”

by James Lehman, MSW
When Your Child Says, “I Don’t Fit In.”

Every child feels like they don’t fit in at some point. Even adults feel that way occasionally: we all experience being “alone in a room full of people.” With kids, the need to be part of a group is instinctual; it’s survival. They want to fit in and be like everyone else because it gives them a sense of safety and security. So when your child tells you they don’t fit in, they’re also saying, “I don’t feel safe.” The anxiety comes from thoughts of, “I’m different; I’m vulnerable.” And sadly, other children tend to focus on kids who are different and can be very cruel.

Your child is going to make the problem huge, so you have to be the one to say, “Yeah, that’s tough,” and then bring it down to its right size.

When your child is getting picked on for being different, know that it’s excruciatingly painful for him or her. But you also need to realize as a parent that you can’t fix it; there’s nothing that you can say or do that’s going to take that pain away—so stop looking for the magic answer. Instead, start working with your child to give them the skills they need to solve the problem they’re facing right now.

“But What If My Child Really Doesn’t Fit in?” Kids with Learning or Behavioral Disabilities
When your child doesn’t fit in with his peer group for some emotional, behavioral or physical reason, I think you have to find an organized way as a parent to work with them step by step, to show them how to manage their daily lives.

One thing to consider is that many learning disabilities often don’t manifest themselves until your child starts school, although the issues have been there since birth. So when a child gets to kindergarten or first grade, you might see that he has trouble reading, doing math or processing social situations. In reality, that disability has been there all along—it’s just surfacing in a different, more concrete way. By the time that child has been diagnosed, he’s probably already developed a very cautious way of looking at the world; he already feels different and is working hard to hide it. The learning disability might not be discovered until years later, but it has always affected that child.

Related: Learn how to set limits with your child.

Look at it this way: if you have a learning disability that causes you to get letters or numbers backwards, what do you think it’s going to do to your understanding of relationships, friendships, trust or responsibility? Do you think you’re going to get all those things straight, and it’s just the numbers that are backwards? This is a much more complex problem than people think.

So if you tell a child with special needs who feels like he doesn’t fit in, “C’mon, you’re just like the other kids. Don’t let it bother you,” that’s not really a helpful answer. Instead, it's a message to your child that they have control over whether or not they have a disability, or the power to decide how it affects them. He’s going to walk away feeling like there’s something wrong with him, and he’s going to say to himself, “Nobody understands me, I really am different.” While kids may often learn how to manage the effects their learning disabilities have upon them, it usually takes a lot of work and effort on everybody's part—parents, teachers and the kids themselves—to make that happen.

Personally, I felt different as kid. I was adopted, I had learning and behavioral disabilities, I felt like I didn’t fit in, and kids teased me. But I learned over time how to be comfortable inside my own skin. It was more difficult back then because parents did not have the skills and education they have today. They didn’t understand the importance of teaching kids how to solve problems and they didn't know how to coach their kids to build on their skill base. Simply put, in those days, parents didn't have the resources to teach their children not be victims, regardless of their vulnerabilities.

Your Job When Your Child is Feeling Different: Use the Teaching, Coaching and Limit-Setting Roles
So what is your role as a parent in this situation? One job is to balance reassurance with coaching. When talking to your child, remind them that a lot of other kids have gone through the same thing and made it through okay. Give them some perspective on the issue, the knowledge that this is not the end of the world. Also, in your own mind, don’t let it be the end of the world.

This is the time to be a coach and teacher to your child. Coaches reinforce and remind kids of skills that have already been aquired. Teachers help kids identify and develop the skills they need to solve an individual problem. I think being a teacher is one of the most precious things we are to kids. It’s a powerful thing to be able to help your child identify and solve his or her problems, because you’re giving them a tool that will aid them the rest of their lives.

You also need to continue setting limits even if your child is feeling bad or down. Let them know you still expect them to carry out their responsiblities and complete their tasks. If they’re upset after school, just say, “Well, take a few minutes and then let’s get started with homework.” They can feel bad for a certain amount of time, but then they have to start their homework or clean their room. The key is, don’t let them be crippled by feeling bad, and don’t treat them like they’re a cripple.

Another valuable lesson is to function appropriately no matter how you feel. Yes, it’s important to feel the feelings, but it’s also important to do something positive about them. Here’s the truth: we all have to do what we have to do no matter how we feel.

The limit-setting function of a parent is very important during these times. You can be loving and concerned, but it’s up to you to keep this problem in perspective. Your child is going to make the problem huge, so you have to be the one to say, “Yeah, that’s tough,” and then bring it down to its right size. And its right size is, “It really hurts when this happens, but it happens. And even when we’re feeling this way, we still have to do our homework. We still have to talk nicely to our little brother. We still have to clean our room, we still have to eat dinner.” That way, your child is still being responsible and still keeping up with the tasks in his or her life.

7 Tips to Help Your Child

1. Try Not to Overreact When Your Child Comes to You
When your child goes to school and gets picked on, you feel powerless as a parent. It frightens you, it makes you angry, but really, it’s a sense of powerlessness that you’re experiencing. You do everything you can to protect yourself in life, but when your child goes to school and gets hurt, you’re vulnerable too. The feeling of powerlessness is a personal feeling and it’s a devastating one. Many parents lose their objectivity when their child tells them they’re being excluded, picked on or bullied. The technique for the parent here is to go take five minutes and calm down, talk it through with others if you can, work it out, but don’t overreact in front of your child.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s very normal for parents to feel powerless and it’s very difficult for them not to overreact to that feeling. But understand this: when you feel powerless, your first response is not always the best response. In fact, there are generally two kinds of reactions when people feel powerless: one is stick their head in the sand, and the other is to strike out. Know that neither one is helpful to a kid.

 

2. Let Your Child Talk about it and Give Reassurance
When their child tries to talk to them about not fitting in or being picked on, parents may unconsciously become less warm or receptive. Or they may give other signals, verbal or non-verbal, that say they’re uncomfortable talking about it. They may try to minimize the problem, and make it seem like it’s “not that big of a deal.”

But the danger here is that your child gets the message, “They don’t want to talk about it anymore.” Try to remain open to hearing what they have to say, and be calm and soothing in your response. Let your child talk it out—don’t try to make the problem seem like it’s not important, because in the child’s life, it’s huge. Yes, all kids go through this. But maybe all kids don’t go through what your kid is going through.

Remember that when a child tells you something, that’s his way of asking for help. So parents really have to work on being comforting and accepting. They have to give their child the tools he needs to learn social skills, to learn how to read social situations. You can start by saying, “What you’re going through happens to kids sometimes, and I can get you some help with that.” Both are important for your child to know. Telling them that many children have experienced this feeling or situation “right sizes” the problem, and letting them know that you can help them offers them some tangible hope. Help may come in the form of books or online resources like Empowering Parents. It may come from the school, as a result of your discussions with teachers or administrators, or from counseling or workbooks your child can do. Regardless, let your child know that help is out there, and that they don’t have to go it alone.

If you freak out and start to panic about your child not fitting in, he’s going to think you think he’s a freak, too. So, it’s very important when kids share their feelings of being different for you to remain calm. Often it’s very comforting for kids to hear things like, “That happened to me when I was a kid, and I know how much it hurts.” They feel comforted when you identify with their problem and empathize with them. Another way of doing that is to say, “That must feel awful for you.” That’s framing it for them and empathizing with them at the same time.

 

3. Affirm What You’ve Heard
Affirm what’s going on in your child’s life and acknowledge that it’s hard for them. You can say things like, “It must be really tough to feel like you don’t fit in.” And then you can move to the offer of help: “I’m going to get us some help with that. I bet you’re not the only kid that doesn’t feel like he fits in. I bet there are books out there and stuff we can find online that will help us.” You’re showing positive regard to your child, being comforting and being helpful.

 

4. “Try to Find One Friend First.”
It’s a lot easier to start a relationship with one person than trying to fit into the group. When you talk with your child, tell them to deal with other kids one at a time. You can say, “How about if you start with trying to find one friend first? Is there anyone at school who you might like to hang out with?” Suggest people they might not have thought about before. “What about the kid sitting next to you? Or the kid sitting on the other side of you? Try talking to one of them, maybe you’ll get a better response.” In addition, see if your child can find friends outside of school, in other circles, or places where they might meet other kids with the same interests. Your child can join things like the Boy Scouts or the Girl Scouts, where the uniform basically levels the playing field: everybody in the room has the same shirt on, so kids stand out less in that crowd.

 

5. Teach Them How to Read Social Situations
Another skill to teach kids is how to read social situations. So if there’s a group of kids that doesn’t like your child or picks on them, your child needs to learn how to stay away from them and find other kids who they get along with:  maybe there are some shy kids they can befriend or other kids having a hard time. For some children, reading social situations is more difficult than for others. But there are tools that can help parents work with their kids that will teach them how to read expressions and pick up on social cues.

 

6 The Power of Postive Self-talk
Positive self-talk doesn’t mean that you’re saying, “I’m wonderful and everything’s all right, lah, lah, lah.” That’s not positive self-talk. Positive self-talk is reasoning, soothing self-talk that helps you stay calm and keep your perspective.

Kids get anxious when they’re feeling left out or being picked on. Their adrenaline starts to pump, they think less clearly, and they panic. Positive, soothing self-talk is meant to bring them back down. In other words, it calms down their internal physical system, and accordingly, their thoughts.

Here’s how it breaks down. First, help your child identify what’s going on. Perhaps another kid at school is picking on your daughter because she doesn’t like the way she dresses. You can say, “It’s not your problem that Ashley doesn’t like your clothes. It’s her problem. It makes you feel bad, but you’re okay. In fact, you’re great just the way you are, and I love you.” Try that kind of soothing, calming talk as a parent. And then suggest to your child, “How about saying that to yourself next time it happens? Can you do that? ‘This is not my problem, it’s her problem.’” Or, “I’m doing the best I can. If they don’t like me, there’s nothing I can do about it. I’m not the only kid being teased around here.” You can also role play that conversation with younger kids to help coach them through it.

 

7. Let Them Know It’s OK to Ask for Help
Another skill parents can teach kids is how to ask for help. Here’s a scenario: your child comes home upset because some kids were laughing at him again in homeroom. So you say, “Well, maybe you could ask your teacher to move you.” And if the next day your child says, “I did ask her, and she wouldn’t.” Say, “All right then, you did exactly the right thing. Now, let me talk to the teacher, I’ll see if I can be helpful.” Remember, one of the best things you can ever ask your child is, “What would be helpful for you right now?” And then respect their need for space. Above all, let them know that it’s always okay to ask for help.

 

If Your Child is Being Bullied, Work with the School Aggressively
A word about bullying: if your child is being bullied, you need to be very proactive with teachers and the school. Have the school explain what they will do to protect your child from being a target of bullying. Physical and emotional safety is the school’s responsibility while that child is in their care. If your child is being excluded, let the teacher know you want them pulled into activities.

When parents came to my office with this problem, I’d say, “If your child is being bullied, call the teacher first. If they don’t cooperate with you, then call the principal. If they’re not responsive, call the superintendent. And let the superintendent tell the principal there’s a problem. Because once the principal hears it from the superintendent, he’s more likely to take action to solve the problem in an appropriate way. The principal might feel vulnerable that he didn’t know about it, and that will prompt him to further action.”

Related: Give your teen consequences that really work.

“Don’t Compare Your Insides to Other People’s Outsides”
There’s a saying I really like: “Don’t compare your insides to other people’s outsides.” One of the big, big mistakes we make in assessing ourselves is that we constantly compare our insides to other people’s outsides. Inside we may be feeling frantic, or worried, or any number of things. And on the outside, other people look like they’ve got it all together. The end result is that when you compare your insides to other people’s outsides, you come up short—and that’s especially true if you’re a kid. Children and teens compare how they feel to the way other people look all the time. So if your child is feeling anxious and afraid and all the other kids look like they’re having a good time, your child is going to feel out of place and different. And meanwhile, all those other kids feel anxious and uptight, too, and when they look at your child, they think he looks like he’s okay. So the key is to teach your child not to compare himself to others, but to really to do what he’s comfortable with inside.


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James Lehman, MSW was a renowned child behavioral therapist who worked with struggling teens and children for three decades. He created the Total Transformation Program to help people parent more effectively. James' foremost goal was to help kids and to "empower parents."

READER'S COMMENTS

I love reading your newsletters because it reinforces how I deal with things. One incident that occured. Because my children are boarderline, they attract the special need kids to them, this does not bother me - it shows my children are kind- they include these types of kids, etc., and my kids have always been bullied but now doing what your article states had helped them enormously. but interestingly here is something one of their friends said to me who is dyslexic and has other major issues that he hasn't been mainstreamed in 8th grade - so I am not sure how to react. he was begging me to have my children go to his house on a school night in the middle of mid-terms. I then sternly said, sorry they can't go to your house they have mid-terms. His response was " I am disabled so I don't have to have mid-terms" - this has now become his standard answers to when he can't move quickly, etc. I find that allowing your child to use his disability as an excuse as not being able to perform is more harmful. Oh here's another good one. I was swimming in a private swimming lane and a bunch of 12 year olds were not listening to the lifeguard and he had to tell them numerous times "get out of the swimming lane" I was angry and as I passed them I said "you guys don't listen do you?" did you know that the kid said to me , no I don't because I have ADHD - unfortunatley I said, I bet that's the excuse your parents give all the time. I know I sound harsh but we are raising a bunch of kids that will not be able to function. I have experience with emotionally disabled relatives, some can't and don't work which I believe enabled them and there are others that do work and function to their ability. We all can't be perfect and smart and we should learn that we were given certain abilities and disabilites and appreciiate both our abilities and disabilities - so what I can't knit? sorry for ranting but you can see I am frustrated with how we are dealing with things-especially in the education arena where teachers can't deal with boarderline special needs and we have dumbed down all of our educational standards.

Comment By : joji

Isnt that the truth joji! I have 2 kids, 1 with learning disabilities and 1 that is gifted. My daughter, the learning disabled child, was not "bad enough" to qualify for special ed. As a result, we have had to pay out of pocket for educ psych, tutoring, etc. She is currently in the 8th grade. Last year when the public school refused to have her retained, we went to a private school who did. She is now thriving in a very small, low student to teacher ratio Christian school where we have excellent communication with teachers. My son is in the 6th grade and highly gifted in math. He is underwhelmed and under challenged. The public school again refuses to do anything for him. We are now looking into putting him into a bigger private school to give him the added challenge he needs to also thrive. I don't know whom the public schools are "not leaving behind", but it is not my kids! It must be those in the middle that survive the experience. And now with the CA budget crisis...even they will be hurting!

Comment By : Liz from CA

We signed our son up for Boy Scouts 4 years ago and he is thriving. What a great program! The boys must learn to get along with each other as they focus on a common goal and end up making friends as they share the journey. There are some boys in the troop my son didn't like at all in the beginning and now he hangs out with them. We need to remind our kids that people can change over time and that those kids that were giving them a bad time last year may end up being a friend in the future.

Comment By : R&R's mom

My son is in his second year of Boy Scouts and is being bullied. We don't seem to get anywhere going up the chain of command in the troop. I think they don't know what to do. I think the parents don't know how to handle it either. If you were the parent of a bully, what would you do? I think my son is learning being a bully is okay.

Comment By : Sue in WA

* Dear Sue in WA: I would continue to talk about it with the person who is directly involved with supervising the kids and only occasionally letting the chain of command know the status. Try saying things to the troop leader like, “I know you’re as concerned as we are about this, so I’ll keep in touch with you and I’ll occasionally follow up with troop leadership so they know how this is going.” It’s not recommended that you talk to the parents of the child who is the bully, but instead continue to work with the leadership of your son's troop. Teach your child to walk away and encourage him to stay in the company of friends. Ask the troop leader if there is someone that they recommend who might be a good friend to your son. Try to develop that friendship outside of scouts so he has this good friend to stick with during meetings. Sometimes kids are bullied because they appear to lack self confidence. This does not make it your child’s fault, but if this seems to be the case, help your child act with self confidence. Teach him to speak clearly while making eye contact. Help him practice his skills by increasing his social interactions with other kids at events besides Boyscouts. Keep checking in with him. This will let him know that this situation is something you are interested in and will continue to work on with him.

Comment By : Carole Banks, Parental Support Line Advisor

MY son is in the 6th grade he does his work quickly and because he has poor spelling ability his English teacher has been making fun of him by reading his work to the class as he has spelled it. Yesterday she said to another child " do you want to hear how Justin spelled horse?" My son had forgotten the "e" at the end of the word. I am a poor speller and feel for my son but I was never ridiculed openly by my teacher. How do I work with my son, I am afraid that this will stay with him.

Comment By : Donna

Donna, I was going to say you should talk to your sons teacher and if there is not immediate remorse and apology to your student, then talk to the principal. However, I think this is so egregious and unconscionable that perhaps you should go straight to the principal. (It makes me so angry to hear about this, I want to suggest you get the stupid teacher in trouble, big time.) Be careful that in your anger you remain reasonable and not spiteful. But I would definitely get up to that school and start talking to someone. Bad Bad Bad teacher. Would it be appropriate to recommend to your son to talk to the teacher himself and say "I don't want you to ridicule me any more. Especially not in front of the class." Can't wait to read more comments on this one.

Comment By : Cam in Ft. Worth

Donna, Document everything. Put everything in writing. cc the Board of Education. In my experience, these things just get pushed aside and the teacher keeps doing the same thing over and over again. When I was in Middle School, there was a PE teacher who always picked on one student in each class. I was the unlucky recipient of this attention in Grade 6. I had been born with a club foot. Back in those days, braces were used to correct the problem in early childhood. Now the infant wears a cast that is changed out every week. I was never sure on my feet although I could swim like a fish. This teacher's inappropriate remarks were uncalled for and unconscionable. They crushed my adolescent spirit. I didn't say anything because I didn't know better - the teacher had said this. All of the other students adopted the teacher's attitude toward me. It had taken me decades to really believe that I was not defective and something to be scorned because i was not a star athlete. When my older children were in elementary school, we ran into another winner who taught Grade 4. She lied. She manipulated. Things were never her fault. A few years later, I learned about what she had done to another student who transferred to another school in the area. That kid needed several years of counseling. The new counselor was in a probationary period and afraid for his job so he didn't make a big deal out of it, leaving it to the parents to bring the matter to higher authority, that is the school board. It never happened. I had another child following. We chose the other Grade 4 teacher for him. Unfortunately, she suffered from petite mal seizures. We home school now. . . The point: DOCUMENT everything. CC the School Board. Don't let your child be a victim of a goofy teacher because it has long lasting impact. Of course, hold your child accountable as well.

Comment By : mandy

* Dear Donna: This is a frustrating situation. I would not simply focus on your son, rather, I would approach this with his teacher and the principal. Ask for a meeting with both of them and report how your son experiences this teaching technique. Ask them if there is a different method that can be used. Let your son know that you have met with the school staff and that everyone discussed ways to support him in his learning. Be sure to keep touching base with him to see how things are progressing at school.

Comment By : Carole Banks, Parental Support Line Advisor

My son was part of a group invited to attend six flags because everyone in the group passed the AHGE. (10th grade) Students met in the lunchroom to 'choose which group of buddies he/she wanted to run around with} My son sat down with a group of guys he considered his friends. On the morning of the trip two of the boys from the group came up to him and told him that they decided he was not going to be in their group. They did not want him. He told me he was very angry and hurt,but went around and found another group to hang with. He does not want to tell me the details. He does not want to talk about it. I know the studnets. I WANT badly to speak with them. What do I do?

Comment By : hurtmom

* Dear Hurtmom: It is so difficult when we see our children hurt. I think it will make the situation much worse if you talk to the other boys. As James mentions in this article, it’s hard not to over-react to this kind of hurt that our children experience, but it’s best to let the kids work this out themselves. Perhaps your son will decide that these are not the friendships he wants to maintain after all. Focus on helping your son to have opportunities to do the things he enjoys. Friendships usually develop between kids who share common interests. Let your son know that you’re interested in how this is going, but don’t probe too much. You might say, “If you want to problem solve around this, I’d be glad to try to come up with some ideas with you.”

Comment By : Carole Banks, Parental Support Line Advisor

I worked for seven years as a staff assistant in the public school system of a mid-sized city, and am a parent myself. These are the steps I took when one of my kids was being harassed at an after-school activity: 1. I helped him prepare for taking a complaint to the adult in charge. He wrote the facts on note cards, and we rehearsed. 2. When that meeting didn't yield any changes, I met with the adult in charge. Again, I made sure I had my facts & events in order. 3. When nothing changed, I spoke with the principal, who fortunately was concerned and devised a plan for dealing with the problem. If he didn't respond, the next step would have been the superintendant. 4. When conferring with a teacher or administrator, ask for a commitment to specific actions, and a time line. Request that they keep you posted. 5. Document everything, both paper and electronic.

Comment By : Ms. G

My daughter is 6. We have a summer condo that we go to on the weekends. This is our third summer there. There is a huge group of kids from the condo that pal around, and they exclude my daughter. Three years ago, I thought she was just too young. But now when she goes outside they all scatter. Some of the kids she never has even met will run from her, because this big group has black balled her. It is extreme. At home, my daughter has many friends, however, she is not the type to cling to one person. I can't figure out what happened to cause this and don't know how to solve it. She doesn't always see it, she just says no one will play with her and she gets sad. We feel horrible and it is just the start of summer! What to do.

Comment By : Seeking advice.

* Dear ‘Seeking advice’: Because she’s so young, get to know the parents first so you’re certain their children will be good companions for her. Getting together with other families will also give your daughter the opportunity to get to know a potential playmate in a safe environment. It’s common for 6 year olds to prefer playing with only one or two kids at a time and to have a hard time joining in a large group. If the group of kids is older, they may not be interested in playing with her. In that case, enjoy the weekend family time together. Six year olds really love the company of their parents. Giving her your attention and clearly enjoying time with her will build up her sense of self-worth. A healthy sense of self worth will help her choose the company of people who treat her well. We wish your family the best and hope that you enjoy your summer.

Comment By : Carole Banks, Parental Support Line Advisor

My son James is 11. He has had a steady group of friends up until last couple of years. Over the last couple of years he has gradually not been invited to other kids parties and rarely gets invited to plays at others kids houses. There are a few younger kids on our street who he tends to go to their houses out of school hours. When i watch him at school in the yard he tries to talk to his friends but generally they ignore him or turn their back. He does play soccer, cricket etc with his peers at school breaks but doesn't seem to have close friendships. I have spoken to the teacher but he does not seem to be too concerned. I know my son at times over the last couple of years has displayed angry verbal behaviour, brags about himself and can be competitive. He is also currently playing sport for an outside team, not the school where he'd be with his school friends. But it now troubles me when he does not get invited to parties that he used to (and i know other kids are going to), and most of his other school friends don't invite him back to their houses. I also hear occasional comments about James being aggressive (but he has been working on this and improved greatly) and other comments from friends not wanting to be with him. Any tips would be greatly appreciated, as i am not sure how James can go about being respected and regularly invited to other school friends get togethers. Thank you.

Comment By : Seeking advice

* Dear ‘Seeking advice’: There are times when our kids need us to help them improve their social skills. It’s really good to hear that your son is getting better at controlling his aggressive behavior. Aggression will drive friends away, as will being too competitive or bragging about yourself. Talk to your son and ask him how things are going. Find out if there is anyone who bullies him. If he is teased by a sibling or other family members, put a stop to this. And make sure when you correct his behaviors you tell him his ‘behavior’ is the problem and ‘he’ is not. James Lehman suggests that you put a stop to any show of aggression you see. Take away privileges and have your son earn them back with appropriate behavior. It’s critical that he starts thinking of other ways he can solve problems without being aggressive. Understand that he may not have any idea of what else he can do. That’s where you have to interact with him and coach him. Use the interview process from Lesson 6 of the Total Transformation Program to talk to your son about his behaviors. Many kids who display the behaviors of aggression, excessive competitiveness and bragging see themselves as victims—other people made them react the way they did. If this is the case with your son, you may have to help him recognize this faulty thinking pattern when it occurs. James wrote a very helpful article on victim thinking: "I'm a Victim, So the Rules Don't Apply to Me!" How to Stop "Victim Thinking" in Kids http://www.empoweringparents.com/Im-a-Victim-So-the-Rules-Dont-Apply-to-Me-How-to-Stop-Victim-Thinking-in-Kids.php We hope some of these ideas will help your family and invite you to call and talk to the trained specialists on the Support Line. Keep in touch.

Comment By : Carole Banks, Parental Support Line Advisor

My son is in the 4th grade. He attended the same school since kindergarten but we switched mid-year this year because I had enough of him coming hOme crying. He said he didn't have friends & the kids called him weird. He now goes to a school that only has 10 4th grade students. The problem has started to reoccur. He is nervous. Sometimes he doesn't answer direct questions because he doesn't want to say the "wrong" thing. It has backfired though, and they are still calling him weird. I thought about taking him to a child psychologist but I don't have insurance right now. Any advice would be helpful. I can't stand to see him in pain.

Comment By : Mhope78

* To ‘Mhope78’: This certainly sounds like a heartbreaking situation. For starters, we recommend that you talk to the teachers and/or the principal about the name-calling and exclusion your son is experiencing. In some schools this is considered bullying and disciplinary action is taken. It’s completely up to you if you want to have your son see a psychologist, though it’s not your only option. Other types of therapists or counselors such as LCSW’s and LMHC’s should also be able to provide professional, effective assistance to you and your son. It’s not uncommon for counselors or therapists to offer sliding fee scales, or an office visit fee based on your income, so don’t be afraid to ask. If there is a school counselor or social worker, you could start there as well. In the meantime, you can use what you learned in this article to work with your son at home to help him practice new social skills that might be helpful. Here is a website you and your son can use to get more information: StopBullying.gov. We wish you and your son luck as you continue to work through this.

Comment By : Sara A. Bean, M.Ed., Parental Support Advisor

My 6 year old Asperger's son is in a mainstream Y camp. He told me today that one of the girls in his group called him "different". I told him that it wasn't nice of her to call him a name and that he should say that to her if she does it again. (I also informed his group leader so they could watch out for it). I think that he is starting to realize and see that there are differences in him; that he's beginning to compare himself to other children. What is the best advice that i can give him? Thanks!`

Comment By : Aspie Mama

* To ‘Aspie Mama’: It can be so heartbreaking for parents to hear this kind of thing is happening to their child. It might be helpful to talk with your son about what it was like for him to be called that. For example, “What did you think of that? What was that like?” and help him learn what he can do next time to handle the situation in an effective way. You basically want to come up with a skill he can use to cope with that kind of situation, similar to what you described about telling the girl it’s not nice to call names. It might also be helpful for you to look into some support in your area for parents of children with Asperger’s Syndrome. My thinking here is that it could be beneficial to talk to other parents in situations similar to yours about how they talked with their children about their differences. I am including some articles about bullying that will give you some additional information and ideas. We wish you and your son luck as you continue to work through this.
Is Your Child Being Bullied? 9 Steps You Can Take as a Parent
My Child is Being Bullied—What Should I Do?

Comment By : Sara Bean, M.Ed., Parental Support Advisor

These stories are all so relatable, my son is picked on a daily basis, he tells me the kids say that he is "different". Which just breaks my heart, he is such a kind kid and I dont know how to deal with it. I have tried talking to the teachers and the principal,but my next step is the superintendent. I try to stay rationale, but it is hard when your child is going through something beyond your control. This article has been helpful though.

Comment By : worried24/7mommi

I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don’t know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.

Comment By : Jeff Thomson

The neighborhood kids here are horrible. They act like little gangsters running around. There is a group of them who have all been friends for a long time and they're all the same age. My son is 11 and they're all 13, 14, 15. I keep telling him they're too old to hang around with, especially since that age is so explosive, but he just doesn't care. He craves their attention and I'm so busy working trying to make ends meet I just hope something will click between all of them, but it never does. They'll all play football for a week or two then one day they will all act like they hate him and he takes it so personally. In fact, when they do this he takes it out on me. I try to stick to my ground and usually I do then run off in a corner and cry by myself, but it's getting harder and harder all the time. When they play nice he's as happy as can be then when they're cruel he turns around and is vicious. I've nailed it down to that. He has even admitted to it and has no control over his actions it seems. I wish he wouldn't base his value on a bunch of brats. He has so much more to offer than he thinks. Just getting it out. It seems like an impossible situation, but with firmness it will work. And it just angers me that my son, who does need to learn how to control his anger, has to suffer the consequences because of some brats. Of course, I can't let that show, but wow.

Comment By : mom

Thank you for a great article. It has re-assured me that I have been providing the right direction to both my wonderful sons. On the other hand, your suggestions have also reminded me not to over-react and to be careful with my statements. Mostly in the way that I need to make sure I do not un-intentionally enforce my sons feelings of being different or not as good as the other kids. My sons unfortunately did not have many children to hang out with in our neighborhood. Because of this they lacked some othe social skills and also athletic skills of other kids. In other words, I feel that they have some catching up to do. My oldest (15 years) has pretty much made it through the issue. and although still not very social, has a few great friends and is doing fine. I think he just chooses not to initiate plans mostly. I continue to encourage him to do so and to hang on to the relationships he develops. However, my youngest is still getting picked on and is somewhat socially handi-capped in the sense that he does not share the same interests or physical ability with most kids his age. He is 13 but more comfortable hanging out with 10-11 year olds and more on their level. I am sure he will come around but struggle to keep him on track. He tends to want to stick his head in the sand and accept because it is easy and safe. He rather play the role and embrace being different because its safe and easy. I am ok with this to a certain level except that he takes it to the extreme. I think it is important to "coach" your child throuh this to keep him on the right track as opposed to letting him go to the extremes and convince himself that he is different and embrace that role. I have suggested to him that he stay away from the bullies and keep close to the kids that are friendly and accepting. Also to make sure that he sticks up for himself as much as possible. I do not want him to send a message to the other kids that "I'm an easy target" and that they can pick on him and get away with it. I think otherwise it will continue to get worse and follow him to high school. Once you are labeled, it could be difficult to shake. So I continue to encourage him to be agressive if needed verbally. If at least so the other kids may feel a little bit concerned that he is capable of reacting and they could face consequences.

Comment By : DadTrying

I don't like my son school, since first day it is a catholic school, but since day one, I have this feeling, my son teacher never say good morning well actually any teacher at the school are friendly. I am so disaponted of the school, I said good morning to everybody answer back. My son likes the school he is a very good kid, but he said he love the school because he loves to play with his friends. But the way the school is very empty not a lot of kids. I don't know what to do. I just can not handle it! My son went to another school for 3 1/2 I never ever had one compleint not even one, but there was no more grades for him.

Comment By : perlasss

My grandson has a terrible time socially. I've tried to talk to him but he says he likes eating lunch alone and doesn't make any effort to be friendly to other kids. He is 17 and just came to live with us and attends a charter school. He had been diagnosed with aspergers when he was younger.

Comment By : concerned grandma

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I dont fit in, not fitting in at school, bullying, learning disabilities, depression, school related problems

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