Son Being Excluded

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(The Vancouver Sun, December 22, 2000)

Q: My 10 year old son has two good friends who from time to time tell him they are having a special outing with their parents to places like the Aquarium or Science World and he is invited. He gets excited, has lunch and waits by the phone, then they cancel out and take another friend. He is devastated.

Teresa and Saleema: Sounds like your son is being excluded, a particularly hurtful form of social bullying. In this situation, it would be very important to validate his disappointment, and stress that you can imagine how hurt he must be. Talk to him about this pattern of exclusion and encourage him to think about what this says about the value of these boys as friends. Would a true friend let him down like this? Are these boys showing respect for his feelings? If your son insists that he hang out with these boys, teach him the assertiveness skills to say something like "I’m not sure I want to make plans with you because I don’t like how you ditched me last time." Talk to his friend’s parents so that they are aware of the invitation and can be sure your son will not be excluded at the last minute. Encourage your son also to spend more time with other friends of his that treat him with respect. Allow him to invite one of these friends on one of your family outings. That way, he is in control of the outcome.