You know the scenario; every other child in the class is invited to the party, except for your child. Play dates are organized for after school – but no one ever invites your child to one.
These situations can be heart breaking for the parent, but even harder to explain when your child asks “Why can’t I go to the party?” For many children, parallel play and isolated play are perfectly acceptable and a happy existence is created. However, the time may come when those who are more high functioning, become aware that they are not socially accepted by their peers. What can you do as a parent to help?
Finding the right people to be friends with definitely helps and can be the key to successful relationships. Find friendships that let your child be themselves and can grow to be comfortable within each other’ s company. These friends will understand what your child needs and also what they can give to the friendship.
Encourage your child to find a friend with common interests. This helps with the “awkward” moments as they find much to talk about and do together. Friendships with shared hobbies and likes create a natural basis for social interaction to foster. These might be in organized groups like lego clubs, scouts, ballet, train clubs or superhero and comic groups. You might discover friends in the neighborhood, a sibling of a friend or friends from school. Finding a friend who is just as passionate about your child’ s shared interest helps relieve social anxieties too! The natural banter and role playing that occur within this type of friendship, as they share their common activity, is priceless to observe.
Social skills constantly need work. Friendships don’ t just happen. There will be highs and lows, frustrations and tears. Constant communication and encouragement will allow your child to practice these skills and improve their risk taking and social interactions. Role playing and modeling will be important. Your job is to help demystify and teach the expressive skills needed to foster friendships. You might find clips from movies, tv shows or videos, snippets from books and autobiographies, or people watch in the mall. Look for opportunities to help show and teach these skills. When things go wrong – resist the temptation to fix things. Instead take a breath, and step back. Allow your child to experience, understand and adapt their wants to their friend’ s wants. Your child needs to practice in their friendships. Be there to explain and help them to process this expressive socialization. Believe in your child and watch them grow.
Remember - Quality over Quantity. It is far better to have one friend who enjoys being with your child than many friends who tolerate your child.
Let me know how you help your child practice their friendship skills.
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