The Socially Complex Landscape of Middle School and High School

Posted by on Oct 16, 2016 in Alienation, Anxiety, Emotional Abuse, Peer Pressure | 0 comments

The Socially Complex Landscape of Middle School and High School

(As Seen In Blank Slate Media Publications in September 2016)

Teen culture is social by nature. Some friendship groups welcome people to join while others are more selective. Selective group members make it clear that they are very particular about who they accept into their crowd. This type of restricted group is sometimes called a clique.

Some cliques focus on maintaining their status and popularity over the shared interests, values, and beliefs of its members. A clique may try to make it seem like its members are “better” than those outside, or that their clique is of higher status than another. Outsiders may be excluded, targeted or even victimized for being different in some way. Even a likeable and otherwise popular young adult may be excluded because her personality and confidence pose a threat to the leaders. She might be viewed as a poor “follower”.

In most cases, clique membership is tightly controlled by its leaders. They have the power to decide who gets in and who is out. While that may seem unfair or discouraging, the bright side is that friendships change. Just as one clique can make life miserable, changes in social groups can take their power away. In addition, cliques may be encountered as a freshman or sophomore but by the end of high school most cliques have disappeared.

So is it better to belong to a clique than to be excluded? The grass may not be greener on the clique-side of the fence. People in cliques often deal with a great deal of peer pressure. They may worry about whether they will they remain popular or be dropped? Most followers do not cling to a leader out of friendship but rather because they want to preserve their position in the group. The queen bee in a strong girl clique likely worries as much, or more, about remaining popular and accepted as the outsiders do. When no one feels secure, clique members will often use flattery, humiliation, or rumors to manipulate situations and preserve their status. If they are fortunate, however, they’ll realize that true friendships don’t need this sort of game-playing to maintain.

On the other side of the fence, an ostracized teen may become depressed and therefore less likely to act in the

Teenagers bullying friend at the school

optimistic, productive ways needed to feel comfortable at school or other social environments. He may withdraw from social activities and isolate more, perhaps behind a video game or other non-threatening media. Self-esteem may make it seem pointless to reflect on, but a teen who is in sync with his emotions will be more likely to act in ways that improve his circumstances.

As a parent, we may not be able to shield our children from cliques, but there is plenty we can do to help them maintain their confidence and self-respect and understanding what true friendship is all about.

  • Know yourself — and your reputation.Ask yourself some self-discovery questions. Are you interested in a group because you need to feel accepted or because you actually like them? How do your friends influence the way other people think about you?
  • Understand that there is typically only one leader of a clique and, as much as you may wish things were different, it may not be you. Accept it. Decide whether you want to remain in some other capacity or move on.
  • teen-bullying-1Find the right fit— don’t just fit in. Think about what you value and are most interested in. Do these things fit in with the group? Ask questions like: What compromises will you have to make to be a part of this group? Is it w
    orth it? What would you do if the group leader insisted you act mean to other kids or do something you don’t want to do?
  • Stay involved in activities that make you feel good about yourself.Don’t let a group pressure you into giving up things you love or spending time and money on things that aren’t important to you. If you’re on the outside and feeling left out, getting involved in things that interest you is a great way to find a sense of belonging, help you feel valued, and take your mind off a group that’s not welcoming.
  • Keep your social circles open and diverse.Cliques can be very limiting in the way they control how members look, think, dress, and behave. Don’t let them make you miss out on getting to know people who may become close friends. If you’re on the outside, it can help to find a close friend or group of friends whose values, goals, and behaviors fit in with yours. Sometimes just knowing that clique members are probably
    insecure can limit their power over you.
  • Speak out –Take a stand for your beliefs. Be prepared that the clique might go on without you (remember those girls who feel threatened by someone else’s strength). There’s also a chance that others might follow your lead and stop acting so clique-y.
  • Have a mind of your own –Be sensitive to others and don’t go along with what you don’t believe is right. You are the only one responsible for how you act. True friends will respect your mind, your rights, and your independent choices.

The real secret to being popular and having friends is to be a good friend yourself. People who enjoy true and lasting popularity are those who h

ave good friendship skills. Being a friend means being respectful, fair, interested, trustworthy, honest, caring, and kind. So if you want to have friends, be just the kind of friend you’d like to have and stay true to who you are.

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