6th grade for me:
For three months, I literally had no friends. My mom had to buy me sticker books and Mad Libs so that I could sit on the bench and act like I was doing something because no one would play with me. I remember begging the teacher to let me stay in during recess, “I will wash the blackboard,” “I can sweep,” “I will do extra credit homework.” I do not remember doing anything mean or wrong, all of the kids just decided they did not like me. Then, one day, it was someone else’s turn and I was back in the group.
6th grade for a girl client:
I had a great client who got back from summer and her core group of 6 girlfriends simply decided they hated her. They wouldn’t talk to her, wrote mean notes, encouraged other kids to not partner with her during activities. When I got to her house, she was devastated. We wrote them all letters and hand delivered them to the other girls saying sorry and that she missed them as friends. They reluctantly accepted her back.
6th grade for a boy:
A family friend called me recently and told me that her son was being targeted online by the other 6th grade boys. The other 6th grade boys had pretended to be one of the ‘hot girls’ in the class and flirted with him online, asked him out and then told him it wasn’t real. They printed the IM conversation and handed it out at school.
Why? Why can kids be so mean? I think that 6th grade is an overlooked year by most parents and parents are taken by surprise when these things happen so early. So many parents tell me, I thought this would happen in High School, but not now!
It makes some sense that 6th grade would be particularly bad because it is the first year where there is marked outward change. Up until about 5th grade everyone looks the same. In 6th grade, girls start to look different, boys start to sound different and the outward lines wreak havoc on the previously peaceful social scene.
I write this post so parents of older kids can realize that if their child struggled socially in 6th grade, it is totally normal. For parents of younger kids, I want you to prepare mentally for this change.
Stories in the comments if you want?