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Let’s Talk About … Cliques

18 May 2016

Friendships play a big part in shaping your child’s identity, especially during the teen years. Here’s how parents can encourage their children to be open and inclusive.  

You’ll find them in every school. Your child could be in one. He may have changed his hairstyle or wardrobe to fit in. He may even have picked up lingo you can’t stand.

We’re talking about cliques – those closely knitted groups of friends found in every school. The group’s identity is shaped by shared activities, values and behaviours. Members of the group might dress the same way, talk the same way and imitate each other’s quirks. And they spend an inordinate amount of time together – refusing to accept anyone else into the group.

Being in a clique is not always a bad thing – it’s all part of adolescence. Friendships provide social support for acceptance and belonging. Cliques with positive influence can help children feel good and confident about themselves.

But some cliques become a danger to others when they engage in socially unacceptable behaviour such as bullying.

A Senior Specialist from MOE’s Guidance Branch offers parents tips on how to encourage your child to be open and inclusive.

Q: How do you get your child to foster healthy relationships?

A: Educate him to appreciate diversity and remain open to interacting with others outside his group. Teach your child empathy by encouraging him to consider the thoughts and feelings of those who have been left out.

Good friendships are built on values such as care, mutual respect and being responsible. Excluding others run counter to these values.

One of the best ways to help your child is through role-modelling. When we have friends who’re not from our usual social circle, it shows we value diversity. It’s a powerful way to teach openness and acceptance.

Q: How do you discuss the role of power and control in friendships?

A: Find out from your child who’s in and who’s out. What happens when friends are out of the clique? Are they ignored, shunned or bullied? Challenge your child to think if he’s proud of his behaviour. Encourage them to stand up for themselves and choose the right course of action. They should learn to say “No”.

Q: Your child is being left out. How can you help him?

A: Listen to what he says and affirm that he’s not less worthy in any way. He can always find others who will be his friends.

Use this opportunity to teach him important social skills, such as listening and resolving conflicts so that he can establish positive relationships with his peers.

Q: How do parents help kids with differences get along?

A: Help them understand that having differences is natural – it’s the result of diversity. Different people have different viewpoints and we need to respect that.

Teach your children that differences can be resolved and always aim for a win-win situation. Again, role-modelling mutual respect despite differences is important.


The Guidance Branch, under the Student Development Curriculum Division at the Ministry of Education, promotes the social, emotional and mental well-being of all students through a culture of care and guidance curriculum. The Branch also offers intervention for students at risk.