When your child has no friends- it can be very stressful for both the kids and parents. Sometimes, the parents are actually more stressed than their kid who may like to be by themselves. So what do you do in this situation?
Well maybe have a variation, as social skills are an important part of life and we rely on them heavily throughout our lifespan. Allow children time to play alone at home especially after intensive social interactions like school. For children who struggle in social situations, keep play dates short and start with just one other child. Maybe have some structured, fun activities to grab if necessary when other children are over for play-dates (make sure to end on a high note!) e.g. science experiments, baking, going to playground, an obstacle course or treasure hunt. Prep your child with a social story and help them problem solve solutions to hypothetical situations so they feel prepared for unpredictability within the play date. Give them a safe word or gesture if they feel overwhelmed so a structured activity can be implemented.
I also love using Michelle Garcia’s Social Thinking Curriculum to teach kids about social skills. You are never too old to learn how to socially engage more comfortably with others. Chat about the play date after the other child has left so that they can learn from difficult situations e.g. becoming upset when the other child didn’t want to play their game and made a joke about a toy etc.. this is a great opportunity for reflection but not ruminating.
Social skill groups can also be a nice way for kids to learn skills among their peers and potentially meet other children who enjoy their own company and struggle in similar situations. Like any skill, social skills takes lots of practice so use everyday situations to teach not lecture.
Replace ‘should’ with ‘could’ and focus on the other persons emotions —->
You should have looked at the girl when she was speaking to you vs. hey, next time we go into the shop, you could look at the girl so she knows you are listening and thinking about what she is saying.
I never realised the complexity of social skills until I started working as an OT- never take for granted how many steps you have in autopilot that your child might need to consciously think about in steps (eye contact, tone of voice, facial expression, posture, gestures, conversational skills, personal space, listening skills.........)
Hope you enjoy the post.
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