Ep. 49 – Charlotte, Age 8: Feeling different and rejected

Bridging differences by building connections

Kids Ask Dr. Friendtastic
Kids Ask Dr. Friendtastic
Ep. 49 – Charlotte, Age 8: Feeling different and rejected
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Scroll down for DISCUSSION QUESTIONS & TRANSCRIPT

Think About It Questions

  • We are all different. What are some ways that you are different from other kids around you? Do you feel proud, neutral, or ashamed about those differences? How do those differences affect your friendships?
  • What are some examples of visible differences (that people see immediately)? What are some examples of invisible differences (meaning the differences are real and important but other people don’t necessarily realize they’re there when they first meet someone)? 
  • Dr. Friendtastic says, “A shared activity can bridge differences and build connection.” What does this mean?
  • Why do you think some kids don’t want to be around kids who are different from them? How could this attitude hurt them?

Transcript

Hi, there! I’m Dr. Eileen Kennedy-Moore, also known as Dr. Friendtastic. I’m an author and clinical psychologist based in Princeton, NJ.

Here’s today’s question:

Hi, I’m Charlotte, and I’m 8 years old. My question is, what do you do when you're different, and the others don't want to be by you? 

Hi, Charlotte. This is a very interesting question! Thanks for sending it in. 

Feeling different from the kids around you can be hard. You may feel misunderstood, left out, or even rejected. Maybe some kids have been mean to you because of your difference. If that’s happened, I’m very sorry to hear it. 

No two people are ever exactly alike, and that’s what makes it so interesting to get to know each other. The world would be a boring place if we were all the same!

You didn’t mention how you’re different. Is it your interests, your habits, your appearance, your background, your special challenges? There are so many ways people can be different!

You implied that your difference makes others not want to be by you. Is that because of who you are or what you do when you’re with them? 

I’m also curious about what your difference means to you. Do you feel proud, neutral, or ashamed about it? Does it seem permanent or temporary? Controllable or uncontrollable? Is it something that people notice right away or not until they get to know you?

The answers to these questions could help you figure out how to move forward. 

Broadly speaking, you have three main options.

The first option is to change what you do. If the difference is related to something you’ve been doing that’s controllable but off-putting to other kids, changing what you do could be a good choice. For instance, sometimes kids try to be funny but end up annoying other kids. You may get a better response if you focus on trying to be kind. 

Bragging, criticizing other kids, telling on them, or not taking care of body odor are other actions that can push away peers, but these are easy to change! Try giving a sincere compliment or asking an interested question, and remember to have a clean body, teeth, and clothes every day. It may take a while for other kids to recognize that you’ve changed what you do, but the sooner you start the sooner your relationships can improve.

A second option is to change who you’re with. Some people are just not open to getting to know anyone they think is different from them. That’s their loss. Luckily, most kids aren’t like that. 

Who do you know who seems more open to or tolerant of your difference? You may want to spend more time with them and ignore or stay away from the intolerant kids.

Where could you find other kids who share your difference? You may find it easier to connect with those kids because you have that difference in common.  

Or, you may want to try a new activity or interest that you can do with other kids that might help you find a new group and a sense of belonging. Kids make friends by doing fun things together. A shared activity can bridge differences and build connection.

A third option is to help other kids understand your difference. It’s not your job to educate everyone, but if your difference is something that’s visible, it may be helpful to come up with some quick answers you’re comfortable saying for common questions. For instance, if you have a hearing aid, a quick answer to “What’s that in your ear?” might be “It’s my hearing aid. It helps me hear.”

If your difference is invisible, an explanation can sometimes be helpful for guiding kids in how to understand your difference and respond in more caring ways. For example, you might say, “I have ADHD, so it’s hard for me to sit still. Just let me know if my fidgeting is bothering you, and I’ll try to stop.” 

Whatever your difference is, I know for sure that there are also things you have in common with other kids. Finding that common ground with kids who are open to friendship with you is how you can build connection.

This has been Kids Ask Dr. Friendtastic. If you have a question about making and keeping friends that you’d like me to answer, go to DrFriendtastic.com, and click on the podcast tab to see how to submit your question. 

Do you want to learn even more about friendship? Check out my funny and practical books for kids: Growing Friendships: A Kids’ Guide to Making and Keeping Friends, and my new book, Growing Feelings: A Kids’ Guide to Dealing with Emotions About Friends and Other Kids. They’re available through your library or wherever you buy books.

OR find them on your favorite podcast platform!