Mental Health

What to do when your child says ‘I don’t fit in’

Written by Avantika Bahuguna
Published: November 6, 2022

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An ex-journalist and editor, Avantika Bahuguna is a popular mom influencer based in Mumbai with a decade of experience in parenting and community building. She has hosted 100 plus parenting sessions online and otherwise and was a co-host on the digital parenting show Nine Months that was telecast across Network 18 digital platforms and Voot.

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Like it or not, while we all whole-heartedly believe that our kids can’t be as perfect as “Sharmaji ka beta” and want them to be different and take up things they want to, somewhere down the line as parents we do get affected when we see other children of the class performing better or choosing activities we wished our child had enrolled for too. 

Case in point, being a dancer I always wanted my daughter to take up dancing like other kids in her class, but she loved doodling more and perhaps was one of the very few kids in her class who were not interested to be a part of the annual day group dance. To be honest with you, as a parent I wanted her to be an all-rounder in class so that she would always feel fit in. Little did I know that she was feeling the opposite. Dancing didn’t excite her and made her uncomfortable. It took me a while to understand this but now am there to support her no matter what she wants. Does this sound familiar to you too? Is your kid also the odd one in the class? I have a feeling that this could be your story too and while I had an issue with my child not participating in activities liked by her peers, your child could perhaps have issues feeling left out just because they are not part of the “popular group” in school or perhaps they think and behave differently from others, and hence feel a bit awkward with kids who are social magnets or who fit the box in all senses.

Raising kids who are a bit different from others or who don’t fit in the normal box can be a task in itself, especially when we live in a digital world where parents love posting pics and videos of their child’s talent online every single day. However, with support and encouragement from family and loved ones, kids who are unique can definitely grow up to become confident and experts in their own areas of interest.

Here’s what you can do to make sure that your child, who doesn’t fit in and is often feeling left out, grows up to be a confident young adult:

1. Home is where the heart is:

Home should be the place where a child feels confident and safe at all times. Many times kids who’re different prefer spending time at home than be with a group of friends where they’re constantly feeling left out. If such is the case, parents should focus more on how to help their child cope with being alone and deal with the feeling of being unaccepted by giving them a place where they can be whatever they want without being judged or mocked at. 

At the same time, it would be a good idea to try and understand if your child’s uniqueness is affecting them at school in any way– mentally, emotionally or socially by allowing them to speak and share with you, or with someone they are very close to at home, without being insensitive to them. Also, if you notice that something is bothering your child or affecting their mental and overall health, do not refrain from seeking expert help.

2. Celebrate uniqueness

History is full of stories of people who were not very popular in school. In fact, some of the greatest minds had rather traumatizing childhood experiences. Case in point, Albert Einstein was even expelled from school for being a bit different from others in his disposition. 

I am sure your child would love hearing his story and other stories of famous people who were quirky and unique in their own way.  It might also prove to be a great confidence booster for your child. 

Celebrating uniqueness would make your child understand that every human being in this world is special and there is this one extra quality that we all have which is unique to us, irrespective of how different we might be from each other.

3. Let them talk

Oftentimes as parents we are so concerned about teaching what’s right and wrong to our kids that we do not give them the right space and opportunity to speak to their heart’s content. Unless you let your child talk, how would they open up and share about what’s bothering them in school or if they’re feeling left out of the class because of their uniqueness? 

And unless they share, how would you be able to help them out or seek help from others? This is why talking less and listening more should be your mantra when dealing with your child.

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4. Reach out to friends & family

It takes a village to raise a child and it’s always best to seek help from friends and family, especially those who have had their own share of parenting experiences. 

Joining a parenting club or community could be a good way to interact with other parents and kids who have common interests as yours and may give birth to new friendships and social opportunities for your child to interact with people outside of school. 

This would only broaden your child’s horizon and when they meet other unique kids who are not afraid of being the odd one out, they might feel a unique sense of acceptance and optimism to face the world in a better fashion.

5. To stress or not to stress

As a mother of an 11-year-old child, I sometimes feel that at times we parents tend to take things and issues very seriously even when they don’t need to be seen as red flags. If you feel that your child is happy and confident the way they are, it would be best to avoid comparing them to other popular kids and be content with their growth as long as it’s not emotionally and mentally affecting them in any way. 

We have to understand that every child has their own unique qualities and talents that make them special and perhaps there are times you need not stress about every small incident or encounter that made them uncomfortable at school or otherwise. There are certain things that they should learn to deal with on their own and understand that every time you might not be there to come to their rescue.

Feeling left out: When to consult an expert

While I have talked about broader issues so far, being different or not a part of the crowd could have its own disadvantages and affect some kids in different ways than we could ever imagine.

Being mocked at frequently, being bullied for their actions, being left alone and feeling left out, could sometimes be taxing for your child’s emotional and mental health and this is when you should consider seeking expert help to avoid any mishaps later on in your child’s life.

Here are some signs you should watch out for and consider meeting an expert:

1. If you see drastic behavioural changes in your kid
2. If it’s a challenge for your child to socially interact with other kids
3. If your child struggles with daily communication at home and outside
4. If your child is sad and feels unmotivated to do things he liked earlier
5. If your child does not want to go to school or meet strangers
6. If your child becomes extremely sensitive to situations and has mood swings every now and then

I am extremely sure with the guidance of an expert you would be able to navigate these choppy waters easily and your child would be happier and more confident than before.

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The views expressed are that of the expert alone.

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