Every child experiences rejection sometimes, even popular kids who always seem to be surrounded by a big group of friends. Ups and downs in friendship are a normal part of life, and learning how to make-up when things go wrong is an important skill. 

When rejection does occur, it can seem that the reasons are trivial or as fickle as a change in the weather. Likes and dislikes relating to games and activities, who has the latest toy or gadget, or who children are spending time with outside of school can all be factors.

Young children in particular are just beginning to learn about empathy and relating to others, so they may not notice that excluding another child from their game or friendship group can be very hurtful. 

Older children can blame themselves if they are left out of a game or not invited to a party. In the long-term, compromising a child’s sense of belonging can lead to low self-confidence and withdrawal from social contact. They might not want to go to a friend’s house or play with other children in the neighbourhood. 

If you think your child is being left out and needs help:

  • Talk with your child and listen to their concerns – help them express and name their feelings.
  • Model and encourage helpful thinking patterns – instead of “no one want to play with me”, encourage your child to say, “Sam doesn’t want to play with me today but yesterday we had fun together. Julie wants to play with me today.”
  • Refocus your child’s attention on the situation as the cause rather than blaming themself or others.
  • Help them to practise their social and friendship skills.
  • Chat to your child’s school or early childhood education and care service if you’re still concerned.

You may find the following KidsMatter information sheets helpful: