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Should My Child Play with an "Outcast"?

Toddler and Teenager Expert Advice from Carleton Kendrick, Ed.M., LCSW

Q: Our seven-year-old daughter was reprimanded sternly by another parent for leaving her child out. Our daughter was devastated. She is usually very sensitive, and has good relationships with her teacher and classmates. She loves to play with a variety of children. I contacted the parent for an explanation of her behavior. The parent apologized and said that her daughter feels that all the children dislike her and that no one invites her to play. This parent holds an authority position in our community; she is the leader of my daughter's Girl Scout troop and also plays music at our church. Now that I know her daughter is having these difficulties, should I try to involve her with our family? Or, should I not risk my daughter's feelings?

A: Your conversation with the parent who reprimanded your daughter revealed her to be overwhelmed by her daughter's unhappiness. Considering whether or not to make overtures to this excluded girl show great compassion and empathy on your part. Perhaps you also feel that this parent might cause your daughter further hurt because of her positions of authority in girl scouting and your church.

Discuss the situation with your daughter before you attempt to reach out to this girl. It would be unfair to make your daughter feel that she must be this girl's "savior." Despite the best efforts of your daughter, this girl may have personal problems that are understandably making her a social outcast--problems that need more complex solutions than your daughter could provide. Ask your daughter why she thinks this girl is having social problems and what she thinks could help her. However, your daughter shouldn't be forced to shoulder the responsibility of acquiring acceptance of this girl by their peers. Don't react negatively if your daughter refuses this leadership role. Clearly, your daughter can talk with you and gain advice on how to continue to be kindly to this girl. She may even learn more about empathy and compassion from this experience. Thanks for writing.

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Carleton Kendrick has been in private practice as a family therapist and has worked as a consultant for more than 20 years. He has conducted parenting seminars on topics ranging from how to discipline toddlers to how to stay connected with teenagers. Kendrick has appeared as an expert on national broadcast media such as CBS, Fox Television Network, Cable News Network, CNBC, PBS, and National Public Radio. In addition, he's been quoted in the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, USA Today, Reader's Digest, BusinessWeek, Good Housekeeping, Woman's Day, and many other publications.

Please note: This "Expert Advice" area of should be used for general information purposes only. Advice given here is not intended to provide a basis for action in particular circumstances without consideration by a competent professional. Before using this Expert Advice area, please review our General and Medical Disclaimers.

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