I read Yosef Silfen’s insightful article (“Make Some Room,” September 1, 2022) about the impact of exclusion and how it can affect children’s self-confidence and even their future paths, with all too much familiarity.
You see, I went into Shabbos last week sad. Because my daughter was sad. Because she couldn’t find Shabbos plans with anyone. Of course, it’s not the end of the world not to have Shabbos plans one week, but I think for both of us, the sadness was the awareness that we are beginning another long year of trying to make Shabbos plans each and every week, and all the rejection and stress that will come along with it.
Summer was great. B”H, she was in sleepaway camp, and for seven weeks, she didn’t have to feel the pressure of making plans. But now, the first Shabbos back, she realizes that she has 45 stressful weekends ahead of her and she couldn’t even find plans the first week. My seventh-grade daughter, Rachel (not her real name), is kind, funny and “typical,” but not “popular.” No one ever invites her first. Forty-five weeks of having to always ask and often getting “I’m busy” or even worse, no response.
I’ve tried to guide her as best I can and I’ve even reached out to some of the moms asking if maybe, every once in a while, they can remind their daughters to invite her. Maybe every so often when their daughters are inviting girls that Rachel is friendly with, they can say, “Hey, is Rachel coming? Maybe invite Rachel, too.” But no invitations came from their daughters.
I get that middle school and high school are just going to be hard for some; there are no two ways around it. Hopefully, by the end of high school, they find “their people.”
Here are some tips from me to other moms of how your kids can help kids like my daughter along the way:
1. Tell your child “be kind.” When they leave for school each morning just say, “ I love you, have a great day, don’t forget to be kind!” The mantra will hopefully seep into their subconsciousness.
2. Tell your kids to think about the kids in their peripheral groups who may need invitations and be included at recess, etc.
3. If another mom summons up the courage to reach out to you, please don’t ignore it. Your child doesn’t have to step up all of the time, but encouraging her once in a while would be great.
4. Tell your kids that when others invite them, they should always respond right away when possible. Even if they are hoping for a “better invitation.” Explain how it’s not fair to the one inviting.
5. Tell your kids that if someone invites them and they already have plans, if it’s at all feasible, ask the girl hosting if X can come too. Tell your kids, “You have no idea how great that would make X feel.”
6. It would be so great if when kids are hosting maybe they can put something out there in their grade chat at the end of the week like “anyone is welcome to come to my house tomorrow.” The kids without plans by Friday will be thrilled. (I know this isn’t realistic, but a mom can dream!)
7. Simchat Torah can be especially hard for girls like Rachel in middle school and high school. If you don’t have plans with summer friends, you don’t have plans at all and it becomes a very lonely two days. When your daughter makes plans, please ask them to make sure they include the “whole“ bunk.
8. Read this letter to your kids (of all ages) at the Shabbos table this week. You never know what kind of impact it will have on them and what they’ll take away.
Hoping for a year of more inclusion among the kids of our wonderful community!Name Withheld Upon Request