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What to Do About Cliques

What Are Cliques?

Friends are great — and important. Being around people who are like you feels good, and it's normal to grow closer when you have things in common. But a group of friends isn’t the same as a clique (say: KLIK). Most groups of friends welcome anyone to join. Cliques leave some kids out on purpose. This can hurt, so it’s good to know how to deal with a clique.

Is It a Friend Group or a Clique?

Groups of friends and cliques both form based on things you have in common, like sports, computer games, and classes. But they’re also different:

  • Groups of friends let you hang out with kids outside the group. You don’t have to worry about being pushed out. It’s OK to share certain interests with different friends in the group and not do everything together.
  • Cliques usually have one or two popular kids who control who’s in the clique and who’s left out. Someone who has a friend outside the clique may be made fun of or rejected. Some cliques may have rules, like having to wear certain clothes.

Kids in cliques usually want to be popular and feel cool. Sometimes kids think that belonging to a clique will keep them from feeling left out. Some kids feel more powerful when they’re mean to other people (like bullies).

Some kids in cliques act differently than they would outside the group. They may feel pressure to follow the rules. They may often go along with what the others are doing, even if they know it’s not right and it means leaving out a friend.

What if I’m Not in a Clique?

If you’re on the outside of a clique, it can make you angry, sad, or confused. It can be hard if a friend won’t sit with you at lunch anymore or if you’re afraid someone might pick on you. If cliques are making you upset, try to:

  • Focus on other friends. Sometimes this means making friends outside of school and being open to kids who look or act differently than you. If you’re on the outside of a clique and you want to be friends with someone who’s in it, invite that person to do something with you.
  • Do things that make you feel good about yourself. Don’t let any group pressure you into giving up things you love or spending time and money on stuff you don’t care about. Join things that interest you like music, academic clubs, sports, art, or theater. You can also volunteer outside of school. Check out places like animal shelters, nursing homes, and community gardens.
  • Make your own decisions. If some kids are mean to you because they think you don’t fit in, don’t let them decide who you are. Decide for yourself. It’s OK to change — but only if it’s something you want to do. For example, maybe you’d like to start wearing something different or style your hair in new way. You could ask a cool cousin or friend to help you choose clothes or get a new haircut. Be sure to ask yourself why you want to make the change.
  • Tell an adult. If a clique is making you or someone you know feel bullied, tell an adult. People like parents, teachers, and coaches can give you advice on how to deal with mean kids. They can help kids learn to hang out together, fix friendships, and build confidence.

What if I’m in a Clique and Don't Like It?

Sometimes kids in cliques don’t want to belong to it anymore. You might not want to leave others out and hurt people’s feelings. Or maybe you realize you’re missing out on being friends with fun kids outside of the clique. You might also be tired of being bossed around by the clique’s leader.

If your group of friends has turned into a clique, speak up. It’s OK to say that you want to invite others to hang out. The clique might go on without you, but others might follow your lead and leave too.

If you’re not sure how to get out of a clique or others in the clique make it harder on you, talk with an adult. Most schools have counselors and policies to help cliques from getting out of hand.

What Else Should I Know About Cliques?

Plenty of kids are nice to everyone without being part of a clique. They’re kind to kids in and outside their closest group of friends. Look for chances to meet, talk with, and play with plenty of different kids. Ask someone sitting alone at lunch or on the playground to join you.

Do what feels good to you and think about how you would want to be treated. You never know who might wind up being a great friend.

Reviewed by: Lindsay Cadmus, PhD
Date Reviewed: Jun 2, 2023

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