One child may be gifted, another has attention issues and a third is diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Three very different children, yet they all may struggle with the same issues. Trouble making friends, anxiety and behavior problems are some of the most common concerns parents have for their child. Surfing the internet or reading a parenting book, you might find tips for how to deal with these types of issues, but what works for one child may not work for another.
Many children have difficulty making or keeping friends, but the reasons why and the skills needed to help a child be successful may be vastly different depending on the root cause of the issue. Here are three examples and suggestions for improvement.
A child who has trouble with social skills may not be able to read facial cues or understand the verbal nuances of sarcasm and humor. Because of these things, that child might have difficulties with a group of typical peers sitting at the lunch table or playing together at recess. For this child, a local social skills group to gain practice in communication and learning to recognize non-verbal cues could make a world of difference in opening up interactions with others.
A child with attention or behavioral issues or who lacks impulse control might have trouble with peers. This can occur when the child is unable to control their emotions and lashes out, such as after losing a game at recess. For this child, social skills might best be taught working one on one with a therapist who can help them learn to recognize and control these emotions. For example, a visual chart that displays different emotions could be created and the child is coached in how to use calming techniques to take them from the “red” zone of anger to the “green” calm zone.
Make a Connection
Children who have trouble connecting with peers over common interests or may be too rigid in their thinking, might have uneven intellectual and emotional development, which can exacerbate the problem. Let’s say that your child is fascinated in a topic such as the Apollo 11 mission. They may want to talk endlessly about space or act out a spacewalk with peers. Other students may not be interested in this topic at all, or may not be interested at the same level. For this child, attending a camp or recreational program to learn other interests could be key. Practicing ways to compromise and see things from another peer’s viewpoint also could help with social skills.
Lorilynn Wolf is the communications director at Connecting for Kids