Teen on the edge
Social dynamics are so important in high school. A psychologist advises what to do if your child is the outcast.
We all want our children to grow up happy and loved, with a high self-esteem and a good group of friends.  But, the truth is, school can be a pretty harsh place.  Children are teased, bullied and picked on.  In high school, particularly, this depends largely on which ‘social group’ your child belongs to. 

If you think back to your own school days, there were always the popular kids and those that hid in the corners. The beautiful jocks, the arty types and the nerds and geeks.  We know that once you leave school, this social hierarchy becomes null and void, yet the wounds remain. So how can you help your child if they don't quite fit in? How do you protect their fragile self-esteem if they are the nerd that is constantly teased?

1. Although it may serve as little comfort right now, reassure your child that who is popular and who isn't really doesn't make much difference when you leave school.  Share stories from your own past - we all know of a popular, pretty girl who ended up being a drug addict for example, while the geeky boy at the back of the glass became Bill Gates. 

2. Help them focus on their strong points. They might not be good at sport, but maybe they can play the piano exceptionally well. Another child might be mocked for always failing maths, but they have a shining strength in art. Highlight their talents and remind them how great they really are. 

3. Compliment and praise them often. This goes a long way to building their self-esteem and confidence.  When they do a great job, tell them. I used to have terrible acne as a teenager and was extremely shy. One day a boy told me I had beautiful blue eyes, and for the rest of the day I was confident and felt impressed with myself.  Compliments don't need to come from the opposite sex to be effective - having your parents believe in you is even more important.

4. Teach your child the power of positive thinking. Show them that thinking good thoughts such as ‘I am a success’, ‘I am amazing’ and ‘I can do this’ goes a long way to actually making them come true. How you see yourself is how others see you, so show them that by treating themselves well (holding their head up high, smiling confidently and achieving where they naturally excel) will automatically start making a difference to how they are treated by others.

5. Talk to your child about the problem. They will seldom come to you openly and tell you about it because they are embarrassed. If you approach them, however, often it is just the gap they needed to express their feelings. There may be tears and feelings of pure hopelessness from their side, but just talking about it will help a lot.

Ask them to share stories about what makes them feel left out, and then judge for yourself if it is severe enough to take other forms of action. There are times when moving your child to a different school may make a difference, especially if that school has better programmes in areas that your child excels (for example, they may have a brilliant music department that your child will thrive in). 

6.  Think of ways (together with your child) that will help them fit in better.  Discuss all the different options and then help them to take action. These can include: a new haircut, skin treatment, extra lessons in subjects they are battling with, counselling, and extramural activities. Encourage your child to make other friends outside of school. For example, youth groups, sports clubs, etc.

7.  Finally, remind them that these celebrities were picked on and were some of the biggest nerds in high school.  Just look at them now!

Christina Aguilera, Jessica Simpson, Tom Cruise, Tyra Banks, Mylie Cyrus, Taylor Swift, Jennifer Garner, Hayden Panettiere, and hundreds more. 

How would you help a teen who is a social misfit?

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