Your child has worked all year preparing for a school play, after the play he leaves without speaking to another person. You watch your child pester her friends and brag until the kids visibly shrink away. And as you watch you think why my child can’t make friends.
You are ashamed but you feel anger, shame and deep frustration with your child. You have endless talks with her but she just doesn’t get it.
No One Should Struggle To Make a Friend
Parents are often concerned about how ADHD impacts schooling and homework, but making a friend is frequently what is on the child’s mind. When I told that eight-year-old that sat in my office that day that there was a possibility that if he learned how to change his approach he could make more friends, he beamed! And that is when I set out to make sure that no child would ever be left to struggle alone to make a friend. Thus the Play Better Plan and subsequently, my book, Why Will No One Play With Me was born.
As much as you love your child, you know that he cannot spend every Saturday night with you for rest of his childhood. Of course you see the flaws and you also know him best—the funny, lovable kid that you wish everybody knew. Unfortunately, that is not what other kids see.
You have painfully watched your child struggle over the years. Maybe your kindergartener can’t sit still in school or he is too loud and the other kids are put off. Or your fourth-grade child can’t look other kids in the eye. Maybe it’s your eight-year-old that doesn’t transition well and has a meltdown every time you ask her to leave a play date and this discourages the parents from inviting her back.
Why is it so hard to make a friend? I’m sure you’ve talked to him about his behavior, begged and bribed him to be better, but odds are, none of these tactics have worked. Your child wants to get along. He wants to make a friend. He just doesn’t know how.
Social Skills Don’t Always Come Naturally
Child development experts describe children who have a hard time understanding social cues and managing their behavior as having social skills deficits, or weaknesses. It is hard for them to read social cues accurately or understand the unspoken rules of social relationships or play. It is hard for them to adapt their behavior in response to other kids or as a play situation changes. Without those skills, it is hard to make a friend.
Your Child’s “Hub” Is Unevenly Developed
Social skills weaknesses are caused by a wide variety of factors, but the most common is that the brain’s network of executive functions is unevenly developed. Executive function is the hub of skills such as attention, memory, organization, planning, and other cognitive or critical-thinking skills, self-regulation, metacognition (the big-picture, birds-eye view), and the ability to modify our behavior in response to others to achieve a goal.
These are the basic skills every child needs to function well in the social world. In a nutshell, if a child’s executive function social skills are weak, then he has a harder time understanding and managing social interactions. These problems show up in:
· what children pay attention to in a social setting
· what they notice about their friends’ needs and reactions
· how they respond to disappointment or manage other emotions
· how they think about friendship
· how they react to new or shifting social situations
Play is the first and most natural thing all kids do. It’s that basis for learning. Social behavior is best learned by playing with others. But when your child does not naturally understand how to make friends- then she needs direct instruction and coaching to make friends. Here is where they learn how their behavior affects others; they practice seeing other points of view and learn how to get along and make a friend.
The Play Paradox- Play Less Equals Less Social Skills
Today, children don’t get as many spontaneous social interactions. This loss of free playtime has impacted the child’s ability to learn these lessons naturally through “practice time.” For those with executive function challenges, the impact is greater.
As the gap widens, these children often become socially isolated. Usually those with the greatest needs are those getting the least opportunity creating a huge challenge for the child and parent.
The good news is that social skills can be developed just like any other skill. Scientists have discovered that when children with social challenges engage in skill-building activities on a consistent basis, they can learn to interact effectively with other in a social setting.
No matter how hopeless you feel today, your child’s friendship challenges are far from insurmountable. With your help and guidance, your child can build social awareness, improve executive function skills, and learn how to make and keep friends.
How Will Coaching Help My Child?
As a parent, you are on the frontlines trying to help you child with social dilemmas, but until now, haven’t had the resources to properly manage the challenges. Coaching is the process of teaching and practicing social skills with your child. You are helping them with the basic skills they need to make a friend.
Think about sports for a minute. A child has a coach to help with basketball skills and the rules of the game. The coach demonstrates and models the drills that need to be done, observes the players and gives feedback and encouragement.
If They Could, They Would.
Children with social skills weaknesses need help learning those basic skills to participate socially so they aren’t doing something wrong and getting pulled off to the bench.
When your child seem oblivious to the feelings of others or to the way his behavior affects how they treat him, it might seem logical to lecture longer or louder until he gets it. If that has not been working for you and you would like to see different results, the shift is easier than you think.
Coaching your child to better social skills is not complicated or hard. You can do this! As a parent who is always on the frontlines with your child, you have an advantage over anyone else as a consulting coach. It’s those teachable on-the-spot moments that make a parent’s coaching so valuable.
Your Child Will No Longer Be Alone
You have already been putting forth huge efforts to improve your child’s social status, but nothing has brought about any lasting change. With basic coaching techniques, all of that changes. “Coach” at the end of the day is just another word for parent with a game plan.
My new book, Why Will No One Play With Me? will teach parents how to coach their child through any social problem. Be sure to take my new checklist to determine if your child needs social skills help at carolinemaguireauthor.com.