Is your kindergarten student in a clique?
Greater access to computers and the Internet is helping children learn how to socialize earlier in life, but a number of New Jersey parents and teachers also may be noticing that kids are forming cliques at a much younger age, as soon as in kindergarten.
Dr. Marty Tashman, a New Jersey Marriage and Family Therapist with offices in Somerset and Morris counties, said with kids today growing up ahead of their time, it's not surprising that they're forming cliques or tribes at much younger ages. He said there is an upside and a downside.
"The whole issue of cliques, if you want to put something right by its side, is the issue of self-esteem, and how you feel about yourself, and the downside is, exclusion is a really bad feeling, and then the upside is, if you learn to cope with it, then it becomes an important life skill up until, including the business world," said Tashman.
Tashman said parents can teach their children certain social skills that can benefit them later in the work place. Finding one person in the clique to connect with, or encouraging a child to bring a toy over to have something to contribute to the group, are some examples he provided.
Having a child who is the ring leader isn't necessarily a bad thing either, according to Tashman.
"Number one is, being a leader is a good thing. Learning how to be good leader is another thing," Tashman said. He used the example of having a boss who is negative and discouraging, and eventually becomes a leader who no one wants to follow.
"So you can teach your child that one of the great skills of being a leader, is being sensitive to the people you're leading and being concerned about what they need, and if they learn that social skill, people will follow them. If however, they're out for themselves or they're exclusionary, or people are afraid of them, people will move away, and their ability to have that position will be very limited," Tashman said. "You can use your leverage as a parent to encourage the child to do things that help develop instead of ring leader, I want to convert that into leadership skills."
According to Tashman, it's important to teach children how to both be okay on their own, enjoy their own company and become self-sufficient as well as how to be part of a group and in some cases, how to be a leader.
"It's natural for people to form cliques and tribes. It's as long as civilization. Cliques and tribes give you a sense of identity, a sense of direction and belonging," Tashman said. "The idea is to make them inclusive, not exclusive, and make the mission of the group a positive one."