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4 min read

Bullying by Exclusion: How This Common Tactic is Used, and How to Heal

Man who has been bullied

When most of us discuss bullying, we have a picture in our minds of physical bullying in a school community—a child being pushed around on a playground. Or perhaps we think of a group of teenagers pointing, name calling, and laughing at another teen.

However, behaviors that constitute bullying can be complex and varied. While we are typically aware of the violence of physical bullying, verbal threats, and cyberbullying, there are others that may go under the radar at schools and indeed in wider life.

One common bullying tactic for both young and old is social exclusion. But what is bullying by exclusion? In this article, we'll share what bullying by exclusion means, who can be affected, how it can hurt them, and what we can do to help.

When Children are Excluded Due to Bullying

Many of us, at one point or another, have probably experienced being left out. Maybe two of your friends shared a secret with each other but refused to tell you. Perhaps a group created a neighborhood club, but you weren't asked to join. This can feel incredibly painful, no matter what your age. This is what bullying by exclusion is: the purposeful and repeated action of leaving another out of group activities or conversations.

Experiencing this type of behavior can ingrain the feeling of never being good enough, especially in a young person without a strong sense of self.

Why Being Left Out on Purpose is So Painful

Those who experience bullying by exclusion can, of course, feel FOMO (fear of missing out), but this type of bullying can lead to so many more issues. Those who are bullied often:

  • Only focus on shortcomings
  • Suffer loss of self-esteem
  • End up blaming themselves for the social exclusion
  • Experience depression or anger

Feeling ostracized in certain rare cases has led to extreme situations like school shootings or suicide. Even in less extreme cases of bullying through being excluded, a child can grow up with low self-esteem and develop depression or anxiety in adulthood.

Why Do Children, Teens, and Adults Exclude Others?

There can be a number of reasons why we exclude others. Some of these include:

To protect our place. When someone feels safe in a certain role in their social group, they may exclude someone who feels like a threat to that role. For example, a person may feel that they are the "fun" one in a social group, and if another friend seems to fill that role as well, they may exclude them for fear of losing their status in the friend group.

To impress someone else. In some cases, there can be a person in your group of friends who has power over the others. If this person has charisma, others may find themselves backing them up as they bully others.

They simply don't like them. An uncomfortable truth is that there are some people that we just instinctively dislike. And not everyone has the empathy or maturity to include or show kindness to those they don't want to be around.

How Parents, Teachers, and Students Can Address Bullying by Exclusion

Social exclusion can be painful, but there are some healthy ways to cope, to help others who are experiencing bullying, or to cope with it yourself.

As The Teacher of a Bullied Child

Bring light to the problem. Educate students on what bullying looks like, and the ways it can affect others. You can even create a list of what to look for, and encourage students to come to you if they notice others being bullied at school.

Keep an eye out in hallways between classes and check for inappropriate behaviors. Encourage co-workers to do the same so that bullies aren't working in the dark.

Support the students you see being bullied, and don't neglect the students that you have noticed that are doing the bullying. There are often bigger problems at the root of this problem. See if you can get your students to share with you, or with a school counselor.

Don't ignore bullying. When you see it, stop it immediately and report it.

As The Parent of a Bullied Child

Talk to your child or children about bullying. Let them know what bullying looks like, including exclusion and cyberbullying. Let them know that you do not tolerate bullying.

Let your child know that you are a safe place for them and for their friends. If they are feeling excluded, let them know that it is not because of anything they have done and that they are valuable human beings.

Take your child and their friends on age-appropriate activities that help them feel safe and valued.

Therapy for children can be an effective way to monitor and reduce the emotional impact of bullying.

If You or a Friend is Being Bullied

Determine whether the exclusion was intentional or simply oversight. If you were excluded by a friend, talk to them first and figure out what is going on.

If you are bullied, realize that this bullying very likely has nothing to do with you as a person. It does not mean that there is anything wrong with you, and all the things that make you special should not be changed for anyone.

Expand your horizons by participating in hobbies that interest you. Bullying is temporary, and if you find that you are being excluded by people in your school, make your own place. Create connections with others by joining clubs, local meetups, or online communities where you can be appreciated.

Therapy for adults in Austin can also help you reduce the emotional impact of bullying.

When Therapy May Help a Young Person Being Bullied

If you notice that there is something wrong with your child and you suspect that they may be a victim of bullying, first try talking to them. If they are reluctant to share with you and you notice that they are exhibiting symptoms of anxiety or depression, consider talking to a therapist. Being excluded can cause hurt, and children may be especially susceptible to the pain of bullying since they have not developed a strong sense of self or self esteem.

Support for Those Excluded by Bullying in Austin, TX

It can be difficult for a young person who deals with bullying in school. They may feel singled out, alone, and not good enough because they are being excluded by their peers. Therapy can offer support, perspective, and coping skills to manage their feelings.

At Williamsburg Therapy Group, our team of doctoral-level psychotherapists offer both online therapy and in-person sessions in a safe and affirming space for young people to share their challenges.

Give us a call today, and our patient coordinator will help you find the right Austin therapist for bullying to work with your child (or yourself) on increasing self-esteem, and finding a place for yourself where you don't feel excluded.

Book a Therapy Session in Austin Today

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