Virtual Playdates: Can They Really Help Build Social Skills?

Who knew playing at the playground, running on the soccer field or summer camp would be taken for granted?

Adults have an easier time staying connected to friends, but kids need to keep in touch just as much, if not more than we do.

There are many ways to keep your young one social and active with friends while on lockdown. They can continue to build on the social skills strategies that you’ve been building on over the last several months.

Ways to make virtual playdate a success

  1. Determine the social struggle – Ask yourself what your child tends to struggle with during play, such as joining in, sharing, managing emotions, becoming overly excited with a friend, being too bossy, or being too grumpy.
  2. Collaborate on the plan – Make it clear to your child that her mission for the virtual playdate is to practice that skill. For example, work on how your child talks with other children, review what you might say and what to do, role-play, and practice how a conversation might go if done virtually. Practice with family members first, and then when it comes time, help her join in with her friends.
  3. Pick the right playmate – Temperament of the playmate is important when practicing social behaviors.  A virtual environment can be more difficult than an in-person playdate, and to . Compatibility does not necessarily mean putting two like-minded children together. For example, two overly bossy, rule-oriented children might argue and a domineering child might overshadow a shy child.
  4. Choose the activities – Think about what games and activities might work well in a virtual environment in an effort to stay connected. Younger kids may not have the vocabulary or the ability to hold a long conversation, but interactive activities can be just the right mix of fun and entertainment.

Games and Activities for virtual playdates –

  • Scavenger hunt – once online,  agree on a list of things they can hunt for while on a daily walk with their parents or siblings. Right now, there are many neighborhoods putting rainbows, bears, and other creative items in their windows. Have them find and take a picture of someone’s sidewalk chalk art, hunt for a certain type of leaf or bug or count how many butterflies cross their path. The options are endless. When the hunt is over, the kids can regroup and compare notes on their next interactive virtual playdate.
  • HedBanz, Pictionary or Charades – These can easily be played virtually.
  • Storybooks – Younger kids can take turns reading to a friend. Kids can talk about characters, plot and why it’s a favorite.
  • Crafts – Set up your virtual playdate at the dining room table with supplies. Kids can talk and draw together. Have a show and tell at the end of the playdate.
  • Pen pals –  How fun would it be to stay connected by sending a friend a handwritten letter? Make it fun by including a drawing or adding one of your favorite stickers to share.

Debriefs are important

Children learn by reflecting on what they are doing and how it impacts others. The more you engage with you child, in a nonjudgmental way after the playdate is over, the better. Chat about what they did well and celebrate their effort. I heard you tell Julie what to do and what game to play. What do you think Julie felt when you told her what to choose? What choices did Julie get to make? What choices did you get to make? Let’s look at whether or not that was fair together. Then also ask your child what they struggled with and make a plan and practice for the future.

Kids can learn that even though they have to distance themselves right now, they don’t have to forget about the ties they have to their friends.

Read more about Social Skills development

and COVID resources

10 Ways to Teach Your Child Social Skills in Daily Life

Some kids learn easily how to navigate any social event and other kids do not. As a parent, you are her original teacher and you are with her day in and day out, so you can help her practice her social skills in daily life.

Consider the opportunities in daily life such as standing on the sidelines at a soccer game, playing in the park, shopping in box stores and malls, standing in line at the grocery store, going to barbeques as a chance to be your child’s social skills coach.

10 Ways to Teach Your Child Social Skills In Daily Life: 

  1. Help Your Child Become a Social Spy-Build your child’s awareness by teaching your child to be a social spy. The concept is that the child can to go into public with a mission to be a social spy where she will obtain specific social information. You will rehearse with your child ahead of time, so she learns to watch other people in a subtle, covert way and to listen without looking like she is listening. The idea is to observe a specific behavior so she can learn crucial information about her peers such as how they dress, what they talk about at lunch as well as to teach her how to observe and also notice other people’s behavior, mood, energy and to scan and read the room.
  2. Spy at a Party to Identify the Unspoken Rules-In every environment there are unspoken rules, the subtle and nuanced rules of how you are expected to behave and what is acceptable in that environment. As you take your child to different environments, practice having her enter each event to covertly spy and uncover the unspoken rules of the household. You can start by promoting her and sharing your observations then have her spy and report back.  Have her notice: Is the house casual or formal? How do the members of the family treat the furniture?​ Are they tidy, messy, do they care about organizing? What is important to them?​ Should you touch items in the house or keep your hands to yourself?
  3. Take a Box Store Field Trip-Take a field trip with your child to a public place like a mall, a box store, a large shopping plaza and spy on shoppers and workers in the stores​. Have your child spy to notice social verbal and nonverbal cues and to collect information.​  Notice and draw a map of all the entrances, exits, and bathrooms. How many are there? Do employees wear uniforms? What do the uniforms tell you about who is doing what job? Based on what you observe who is in charge in this store? Who is in charge but does not wear a manager tag? Who is the grumpy employee? What verbal and nonverbal cues tell you how someone feels? Who is in a hurry? What social cues tell you they are in a hurry?
  4. Read the Mood at a Party or On The Playground-At an event with friends and family or while you are playing on the playground- prompt your child to pick out two people in her family to observe and then to report back what their facial expressions, body language and tone of voice are when they are angry, frustrated, nervous or frightened. Continue to spy on people’s mood throughout the event and ask your child how he should adapt his behavior based on the other person’s mood.
  5. Create an Inventory of People at the Party-Learning who someone is and predicting what they will do comes from stepping into their shoes and noticing a million little details about that person. Help your child learn to predict what motivates people, how they will react to information by playing a game with your child at a party. Before the party, prompt your child to privately collect information during the party to create an inventory of 2 specific people in your life by spying on them and gathering information to answer the questions about their interests, personality, and preferences.
  6. Teach Your Child to Engage in a “Polite Pretend”-The ability to fake interest or happiness and to be polite even when your child is hungry, tired or bored is what I call a polite pretend. Begin by asking him some open-ended questions, what do you think your friend felt about your behavior? How do other people feel about how you treated them? What behavior does the situation call for? This will help your child think about his actions and why performing a polite pretend may be necessary rather than hurting other people’s feelings.
  7. Practice Building Small Talk-Taking a conversation from saying hello to a full-fledged conversation is hard for some children and teens but it is a life skill. Before a social event teach your child these steps so she can consider how to start and move a conversation forward. First consider how the person and situation is similar or different from someone else she knows; consider what shared experiences you have had with the person. Then listen for clues about the person you are talking to or consult your social database for information about them you can use in conversation. Give your child some conversation starters such as, what have you been up to? What has this season been like? Are you taking a trip or vacation this season? Ask your child to walk around with you and start to make conversation with adults or other kids.
  8. Reading the Face in the Crowd-Most communication is through body language and facial expressions. At your next social event, play a game with your child. Ask him to read the faces of people at the party from afar, remind him to spy covertly not glaring or staring. Ask him to share with you discreetly what 5 people’s facial expressions alone, without words tell him about how the person is feeling.
  9. Teach Your Child to Learn to Approach a Group-Prior to a bbq or party, role play approaching a group with your immediate family so your child can get a sense of how to physically maneuver and so she can practice the steps to join a group. The steps are pause and scan the group, think about a similar situation from the past, figure out the group’s unspoken rules, think about who you know, consider what the people in the group are interested in, notice the social cues, body language, facial expressions of the people in the group, make eye contact with the group and initiate a friendly gesture like a smile and then approach the group.
  10. Gamify Reading the Context of a Situation-Context is the situation, the environment, the mood, the circumstances, and what has been going on around you. Some children struggle to pick up on the context and then to adapt their behavior to that context. At a social event ask your child to adapt his behavior to match the audience he is speaking to. Share some examples in advance, did they just get bad news? Are they hurried and busy? Are they sharing good news? Ask your child to demonstrate adapting to the context and then share it with you.

 

5 Ways To Maintain Your Child’s Social Skills During COVID19

Due to COVID-19, government and medical professionals are urging us to stay physically distant and avoid social gatherings of more than 10 people. Although parents are being asked to promote physical distance outside of the family, helping children develop social skills is still possible. As busy people, we don’t always make the time to connect with others in our immediate households—social distancing is the perfect time to do this, no?

Social skills are life skills, and connection to others is essential to mental and physical health. Helping children feel connection is possible, even without playdates and when school is out of session.

Follow these 5 tried-and-true methods of engaging with your family and helping children learn essential social skills, without an electronic device:

Read more in Mind Body Green

My Child Can’t Make Friends & Keep Them – What is Wrong With Her?

By Caroline Maguire, M.Ed. PCC

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.

 

https://www.huffpost.com/entry/five-words-that-will-change-your-childs-lifeand-your_b_5a5e3207e4b01ccdd48b5fd3?guccounter=1&guce_referrer=aHR0c

 

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.

How Can I Get Through To My Kid That He Has To Stop Arguing With His Teachers So Much

By Caroline Maguire, M.Ed. PCC

You just received another text from your son’s teacher. He’s in trouble again for his outbursts and continuing to argue with his teacher. You’ve had numerous conversations with David, pleading with him to stop arguing, but nothing changes. 

When he gets home, you ask him about the encounter, and he seems to have no idea that he has been rude.  He tells you, “I wasn’t talking out of turn; the teacher just doesn’t get me.”  As a parent this makes you wonder if children with ADHD are more self-centered than other children. Of course not, however, some of the characteristics children with ADHD have can give the appearance of being rude and insensitive.

Some children with ADHD don’t have the perspective or ability to see how others interpret their actions and behaviors.  Take David for example – At first glance, you would see him as a bright elementary school boy. He looks easygoing and fun, but can’t stop butting heads with his teachers. He won’t stop arguing. It doesn’t matter what the topic is, David is right, and he will argue and debate it until he gets in trouble.

Children like David don’t have the capacity to understand how they come across when interacting with teachers and other adults. Their intentions are good, but they don’t really know how to tune in and “walk in the other person’s shoes.”

When feeling bored, overwhelmed, hungry, tired or face a self-regulating challenge, ADHD children like David can unintentionally forget social rules and without meaning to, come across as uncaring and bad mannered. They struggle with interpreting social cues, but with proper support, they CAN work to develop a better perspective.

Taking other people’s perspective and understanding that other people have an inner emotional life and being able to detect that point of view is known as Theory of Mind.  When someone has Theory of Mind it means they can detect the perspective, emotions and understand what motivates others. 

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/socioemotional-success/201707/theory-mind-understanding-others-in-social-world

Having Theory of Mind means understanding that other people’s thoughts and feelings may be different from your own. How many times have you heard someone tell you, “Think before you speak?” Children who do not have the ability to read the minds of others do not hear or notice that their tone, misguided humor, continual monologue, or how abrupt subject changes may alienate others. Parents are baffled as to what to do.

The Path to Change

When children don’t stop arguing, it is often because they do not easily interpret social cues and tune into the mental states (emotions) of others. They misread behavior and therefore do not understand how their physical and verbal actions affect other people. Teaching children Theory of Mind means helping the ADHD child consider others’ point of view, perspective, desires, motives, and intentions. 

 

Children with Theory of Mind Can:

·       Interpret how their teacher and friends feel

·       Decode the information in the environment

·       Envision someone else’s reaction to a behavior or event

·       Attribute beliefs and desires to someone

·       Walk in someone else’s shoes

·       Predict actions based on a person’s knowledge

·       Understand false beliefs

·       Recognize what information other people know

·       Uncover the speaker’s intentions and inferred message

·       Anticipate that one’s actions provoke reactions from other people

To teach Theory of Mind effectively, parents need to understand the open-ended questions technique.

So what exactly are open-ended questions and how can you use them with your child to get him to stop arguing? Open-ended questions are for parents who witness the sharp tones and behavior of their children – and are looking for a sound way to develop Theory of Mind. This style of questioning allows the parent to use a type of coaching communication technique that leads the child through a process to look at the feelings of others.

It provides the child with perspective to be able to examine his own behavior and choices. Children can learn how to alter their behavior and using open-ended questions is one way to help those who lack Theory of Mind to create a greater awareness of the mindset of others.

This coaching technique also eliminates a lot of unnecessary friction, for example, rather than telling David, “You need to stop arguing with your teachers,” think about asking, “How do you think your teacher feels when you speak out of turn and are always arguing with her?”  This coaching technique will allow the child to consider that other people have thoughts about his behavior and that his behavior can negatively or positively affect others – this builds self-awareness and Theory of Mind.

With proper support, parents can learn to effectively use the open-ended questions technique, initially taught by ADHD professionals. This is not a cure, there is no magic here, but used consistently, it does show a sustained improvement in the child’s Theory of Mind.

Step 1:

Open-ended questions use the words who, what, when, where, how, and why. They ask, rather than tell.  The process looks like this:

a) David, who thinks all facts are worth arguing about, even with adults, and often will go so far as to correct other adults. 

b) Ask David, “How do you think I feel when you correct me?” It can be beneficial to have him look at your face and interpret what you are currently feeling.

c) Then, no matter what the answer is, even if it’s a shrug and an, “I don’t know,” continue to ask him, “What do you think the appropriate behavior should have been?” 

 

This begins to help the child think about what the unspoken social rules were and what they are expected to do in the future.  The questions help the child with ADHD pause and reflect on other people’s state of mind.   In the minivan or on the go continue to ask him questions when his conversations present as forgetting other people’s feelings.

Questions can center on:

·       What do other people feel?

·       What is the reaction to their behavior?

·       What did the other people’s facial expression tell them about their feelings?

·       What was the behavior that would make people feel positive about them?

·       What was the appropriate behavior in the situation?

 

The open-ended question coaching technique walks the ADHD child through interpreting other people’s point of view to examine how their actions and behaviors affect others.  Self-regulation and other coping skills may need to be practiced to help children put their best foot forward, but the key is to help the child consider how they come across to those in every day interactions.

Step 2: 

On an ongoing basis and on the spot when the child is rude or dismissive, begin to ask him open-ended questions that allow him to reflect on his actions and how they might make other people feel.

Additional questions to insight conversation can include:

•        How do you think your classmates feel when you can’t stop arguing?

•        What do you think happens when you don’t show the teacher respect?

•        What were the circumstances and how did you adjust?

•        What were the typical behaviors in that environment?

•        What did you notice about the teacher?

•        What could you do when you are bored?

•        What happens if your tone is dismissive?

•        What do you think your peers think when you are bored disrupt class?

 

The main questions center around helping the ADHD child who struggles to mind read, to consider the perspective or point of view of other people. The idea is to ask questions! Open-ended questions help the ADHD child learn to consider what is typical or appropriate behavior in that situation. It also provides a path to better observe the people, actions, body language, environment and social rules around the child.

The reciprocal relationship between tuning into other people’s perspective or mental state and how those people treat us in return is a game changer. ADHD children, who can’t stop arguing, and therefore tend to dominate conversations, can learn to be able to interpret and consider the feelings of others. It’s a journey, and consistency is the key. Parents should find comfort in knowing that all ADHD children benefit from patient and nurturing parents and the open-ended questions technique is well suited to parents who wish to help their children turn social struggles into positive outcomes.

Become a Social Observer

To help your child stop arguing, help him become a social spy and let him see it first hand. Social spies observe people in different settings and then record their observations about social cues including, vocal volume, tone, eye contact, physical presence, interrupting, arguing, etc.

·       Build awareness

·       Go to a public place, hotel lobby, book store, mall

·       Watch and notice the social cues

·       Identify what unspoken rules the environment dictates

·       Create an image of positive social behavior to navigate toward

The Polite Pretend

Many children with ADHD can quickly become bored inside the classroom, leading to outbursts or just checking out altogether. Some will provoke and argue with the teacher to be funny or get a reaction from friends. Rather than lecturing your child, talk with him about the problem. Start by saying, “I’ve noticed that you sometimes struggle to stop arguing with your teacher and I understand you don’t mean to be disrespectful.” Ask him what happened in the specific situation. 

 

Talk to him about things that do not interest him and this dilemma of being polite. Remain neutral and calmly discuss why pretending to be polite is necessary. Rather than just telling him that he has to do this, use questions to help him reflect such as:  

·        What he can do during a conversation when he feels bored or when he’s too tired to participate in the conversation?

·        What happens in the conversation when her tone becomes dismissive and argumentative?

·        What are the benefits of a polite pretend?

Reading the Room

In each environment, there are expectations and unspoken rules. To present the best face to the world, you have to decipher those expectations by reading the room. Help your child understand that how he behaves sends messages to the world, which ultimately impacts how he is received.

 

Any social situation is just a problem to be solved. If you build those skills, your child will have the opportunity to improve his social awareness, stop arguing, and develop better relationships with his teachers.

 

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.

 

Managing Your Love/Hate Relationship With Your ADHD Child

By Caroline Maguire, M.Ed. PCC

Your child nags you in the lobby of a hockey game begging for candy- even when you say no – he continues to begin plead and cajole.  Your child tells a neighbor that he is done talking to him because he “needs to eat” and turns his back on your family friend and walks away.   You watch as your child refuses to get in line and listen to her swim coach, she moves like a firefly and does not seem to notice the coach’s clear annoyance. At Thanksgiving despite your repeated suggestions that he stop, your child takes out his phone ignoring everyone to play games and dive deep into his online world.

As a parent, you often caught in the middle, trying to balance your own emotions about her poor behavior while also trying to help her have less conflict in her life. You love your daughter, but your relationship is strained because of the frustration of it all, and it’s bringing you down.

Can I Get Out Of This Constant Battle?

Every parent of an ADHD child can understand the love/hate relationship struggle. You’ve talked, you’ve lectured, you’ve raised your voice, you’ve even sat down over her favorite ice cream and tried to reason with her, all to have the proverbial door slammed in your face.  And every parent has struggled with your child’s baffling behavior, her seeming unwillingness to change or to do what you have asked.  

It can be embarrassing to watch as your child is rude to others, ignores the rules or gets in trouble with coaches and teachers again and again. We all have stories describing how our child has been less than kind to others, but how do you stop it?

If your child’s behavior has you resenting or even disliking her, you can spend a lot of time trying to figure out whether she is behaving willfully, or whether she honestly can’t do any better and needs help. Trying to diagnose “can’t” versus “won’t” only leaves you stuck in a constant cycle or doubt.

 

The ADHD Child’s Intentions Are Good

It is important to realize some children with ADHD don’t have the perspective or ability to see how others interpret their actions and behaviors.  

Children with ADHD often don’t have the capacity to understand how they come across when socializing with others. Their intentions are good, but they don’t really know how to tune in and “walk in the other person’s shoes.” When feeling bored, overwhelmed, hungry, tired or face a self-regulating challenge, the child with ADHD can unintentionally forget social rules and without meaning to, come across as uncaring and bad mannered.

Children with ADHD may struggle with interpreting social cues, but with proper support, she CAN work to develop a better perspective, step into someone else’s shoes and manage her own behavior to meet expectations.  But this is not an overnight journey and often your child means well but cannot change without help and support.

It’s What Lies Beneath That Needs To Be Addressed

So now you know that your child’s behavior may not be 100 percent in his control. Our tendency as parents is to jump right in and fix it. If the bike is broken, not a problem, that can be fixed. A shoelace needs to be tied, easy! But in the case of a  child with , watch out—do not assume that the problem you see is what needs fixing.

The behavior itself is like an iceberg. There are the parts of the behavior we see and then the brain-based skills and executive functions below the surface of the water, that you cannot see and that are driving these baffling behaviors and making your child seem not to care about meeting your expectations.

Executive functions are the management system of the brain. The underlying brain-based processes that control attention, self-management, self-regulation, self- awareness, controlling emotions and organization and planning.

https://www.understood.org/en/learning-attention-issues/child-learning-disabilities/executive-functioning-issues/understanding-executive-functioning-issues?gclid=CjwKCAjw1_PqBRBIEiwA71rmtV2Li_TGVeBijw4lNtQ7DMM7bpCLkK9-R1lOjnHfC_ToXyd0uXLhhRoC7goQAvD_BwE

 

Behavior for a child with ADHD is like this iceberg.  It’s the unseen portion that drives the child’s behavior. To help your child you will have to go to those deeper dimensions—the heart of your child’s experience —to be able to develop the skills that foster change and growth. 

 

The Social Behavior Iceberg: You child’s observable behaviors—the ones you find baffling or frustrating—are like the visible tip of the iceberg. The reasons for that behavior lie below the surface, in the way that your child is hardwired for certain strengths in brain-based skills, while some others are unevenly or less developed.

The key to move forward is to come to understand that if your child could do better, he would do better. Assuming your child is not trying to annoy you or embarrass you but that he is struggling and does not have the skills to meet your expectations.

Now should you just sit back and excuse the behavior? Certainly not! As a parent you want to recognize your child’s strengths and you want to recognize the skills she needs to develop. Just like learning to swim, throw a ball,  make a doctor’s appointment or manage a homework assignment- all children need coaching and guidance.

In this case- your child may not read ordinary social cues and respond appropriately. This is an area that will be an ongoing challenge but also an opportunity to learn the practical problem-solving skills needed to adapt, engage, learn, and thrive as a social being.

 

It’s Okay For My Friends To Have Thoughts Different From My Own

As you stand in line behind your daughter,  you hear her speaking in a sassy tone to her friends – clearly wanting her way and getting it by being bossy and mean, “I don’t want to do it that way, besides it’s a stupid idea.” Hearing this, you wince in embarrassment thinking, “why is she always so rude to her friends?”  This isn’t the first time you’ve seen your daughter express some “less than desirable” character traits. When you ask her about the encounter, she seems to have no idea that she has been rude.  She tells you, “It was a stupid idea, mine was better”, clearly missing the point.

One of the reasons your child might seem to be rude or inconsiderate is because of those weak executive functions. One major skill that we all need to get along with others is to step into their shoes, think about how our behavior impacts our friends and to adapt our behavior to make sure we are considering the feelings of others.

This skill of stepping into someone else’s shoes is called theory of mind.  Having theory of mind means understanding that other people’s thoughts and feelings may be different from your own. How many times have you heard Grandma say, “think before you speak”? Great phrase, right?

The problem is that the child with who does not have the ability to read the minds of others cannot hear or notice that their tone, misguided humor, or abrupt subject changes may come across as rude and outright mean.

The child with ADHD  can misread behavior and therefore does not understand how their physical and verbal actions affect other people. Teaching children theory of mind means helping the child to consider others’ point of view, perspectives, desires, motives, and intentions.  To do this effectively, parents  will learn to use open questions and to develop this key skill.

 

Learning to Step Into Someone Else’s Shoes

So how do you begin this journey? Your goal is to help your child recognize that you and others have feelings about his actions and that those feelings affect how you react to him.  Coaching is more than just a way of communicating. Coaching is a combination of using open questions such as “what do you think made Lucy get angry?” along with reflecting or summarizing what you hear.

 

Step 1 

Getting Your ADHD Child To Open Up and End the Love Hate Relationship With Your Child

Learn how to ask good questions Open-ended questions use the words who, what, when, where, and how. They ask, rather than tell.   And open questions encourage your child to talk and problem solve. 

If you tell your child “ you are always rude, and you did not think about your friend’s feelings.” He is apt to just shut down and he does not really contemplate the situation from all angle. 

Open questions allow your child to hold the mirror up to his behavior and to hear his own assessment. They also make it easier to have the conversation since you are not interrogating him- you are curious – detached asking him what the situation is.

The process looks like this:

Joseph, who thinks all facts are worth arguing about, even with adults and often times goes so far as to correct other adults.  He tends to say things like “actually that is not true.” Correcting adults and peers alike.

 

First: Ask Joseph, “How do you think I feel when you correct me?” Have him look at your face and interpret what you are feeling can also be beneficial.

 

Second: No matter what the answer is, even if it’s a shrug and an, “I don’t know,” continue to ask him, “I am curious what made you look up the answer on your phone?”

 

Third: Give Joseph space allow him to think about it.

Joseph tells you that he was “sure you were wrong and knew he was right.”

 

Fourth: Keep cool.  Ask Joseph “ what do you think I felt when you doubted me and looked up the answer?”  or  “ what is the price of being right?”   

 

This begins to help the child think about what the unspoken social rules were and what they are expected to do in the future.  The questions help the child with ADHD pause and reflect on other people’s state of mind.   In the minivan or on the go, continue to ask him questions when his conversations present as forgetting other people’s feelings.

 

Questions can center on:

  • What do other people feel?

  • What is the reaction to their behavior?

  • What did the other people’s facial expression tell them about their feelings?

  • What was the behavior that would make people feel positive about them?

  • What was the appropriate behavior in the situation?

 

The open-ended question coaching technique walks the child with ADHD  through interpreting other people’s point of view to examine how their actions and behaviors affect others.  Self-regulation and other coping skills may need to be practiced to help children put their best foot forward, but the key is to help the child consider how they come across to those in their everyday interactions.

Step 2  

Learning to Collaborate and Manage Conflict Helps You Create Cooperation With Your ADHD Child

When challenges arise teach your child how to reflect On an ongoing basis and on the spot when the child is rude, presents inconsiderate behavior, or is dismissive, begin to ask him open-ended questions that allow him to reflect on his actions and how he might make other people feel.

 

Additional questions to stimulate conversation include:

  • How do you think other people feel when you don’t show interest?

  • What were the circumstances and how did you adjust?

  • What were the typical behaviors in that environment?

  • What did you notice about the other person?

  • What could you do when you are bored?

  • What happens if your tone is dismissive?

  • What do you think your peers think when you are bored and abruptly stop talking?

 

Step 3

Choose a specific situation that’s been difficult for your child and explain that thinking about her past behavior can help to figure out what to do right now. It can also help to predict your child’s likely future behaviors. Offer an example from your own experience. Walk through the questions to have a dialogue about your child’s view of the situation:

 

  • What do I know about my past behavior or usual behavior?

  • What are my interests?

  • How have I reacted to other similar situations in the past?

  • What social signals am I sending?

  • What choices do I have?

  • How do my choices come across as likable, appealing behaviors?

  • What reaction will my behavior get in the future?

  • How can I consider this person’s feelings—stand in his shoes, see his perspective—when making choices about how I speak or behave toward him?

 

How to Trade the Language of “Tell-Tell-Tell” for “Listen and Learn”

How many times have you said, “How many times have I told you…?” To make the shift from the “tell-tell-tell” mindset to the more effective coaching practice of “listen and learn,” start by trading phrases.

  • Instead of try harder, you can say: What’s getting in your way? What would you like to do differently? What are you expected to do as a friend?”

  • Instead of “Be more friendly” you can say: “What do you think being friendly and likable looks like?” “What are you doing that is friendly?”

  • Instead of “Stop being difficult” you can say: “What’s going on for you right now?”

  • Instead of saying “Your attitude about this is so negative” you can say: “What is the story you are telling yourself?” Or “I hear you being kind of negative what is going on for you?”

  • Instead of “Get control of yourself” you can say: “You’re the boss of your behavior—how can you take charge of (your body, your words) right now?

  • Instead of “Stop being so mean to your friends.” you can say: “What could you do to help meet your friends in the middle when deciding where you want to go?” “What would it be like to ask what they want to do?”


Think of Your Child as a Glass Half Full

It’s easy to lose sight of your child’s strengths when you’re preoccupied and angered with their weaknesses. When you learn how to shift that focus and identify your child’s strengths, interests, and brain-based processing style, it’s a game changer.

Children who tend to dominate conversations can learn to be able to interpret and consider the feelings of others. It’s a journey, and consistency is the key. Parents should find comfort in knowing that all children benefit from patient and nurturing parents and the open-ended questions technique is well suited to parents who wish to help their children become more kind and aware of how their behavior affects others.

 

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.

 

 

Should I Ban My Teen From Seeing “Bad” Friends?

DEAR TEEN PARENTING COACH

Q: Should I Ban My Teen From Seeing “Bad” Friends?

Banning friends and forbidding your ADHD teen from seeing people that you don’t like won’t work. Having a focused, collaborative conversation about your teen’s thoughts on friendship will.

BY CAROLINE MAGUIRE, PCC, M.ED.

Q: “My teenager is having a rocky time with friendships. Lately, she is choosing questionable friends. These ‘friends’ are not treating her well, and, because of their influence, she seems to be heading in a troubling direction. I don’t like these kids, and I am worried. Do I ban the friendships?”

A: You have hit on one of the most heartbreaking experiences as a parent raising a kid with attention deficit disorder (ADHD or ADD). Watching your child make bad choices, and feeling that she is not being treated well, is painful. It’s not easy at this age. Right now your daughter’s peer group is the biggest factor influencing her choices and behavior.

You asked if you should interfere. I’d take a less direct approach. Help your teenager think about who treats her well and discuss the joys of friendship. Banning a friendship usually backfires and leads to a big divide in the parent-child relationship.

I worked with a young girl whose parents did not like the girlfriend she was hanging around with. After several attempts to get their daughter to end the friendship, the parents decided to forbid the relationship. The child withdrew from her parents. She’d hide out in her room for hours. There was a lack of trust and a lot of anger on both sides.

Setting boundaries can be tough, but by talking to your daughter about friendship, without judging her or imposing restrictions, you increase the chances that she will go to you when she has problems with friends.

[Free Download: Evaluate Your Teen’s Emotional Control]

Get Your Child to Open Up About Friendships

Here are some tips for having this conversation:

1. Hold back your feelings and just listen. Your daughter will open up more if she feels heard. By holding back judgment, you create an atmosphere in which your daughter feels safe enough to talk.

2. Look at things from your child’s perspective. The hardest part of being a teen is thinking that nobody understands you. The more you step into your daughter’s shoes and listen to her, the more you can give her what she needs.

3. Reflect, clarify, and be curious. Paraphrase what your teen says and repeat it back to her. When you do this, you show empathy, and you clarify your child’s concerns. Be curious and ask questions.

[Your Free Guide to Ending Confrontations and Defiance]

4. Don’t impose your values on your daughter. Keep your agenda in mind as you talk through the importance of friendship, but do not assume you understand the reasons why your daughter chose these friends. The goal here is to keep your child talking, and to show her that you have confidence in her.

I would share with her that we all have different friends for different reasons, but the root of the best friendships is a shared interest. As you enter this discussion, here are some questions to ask:

  • What is it about these new friends that appeals to you?

  • What do you have in common with them?

  • How do you see your friends treating you?

  • What does an enjoyable friendship look like?

  • What kind of person do you want to be?

  • Can you be that person with these friends?

You daughter may be choosing the wrong friends for many reasons. The most important thing is to keep the communication flowing.

Clarify Friendship

Gather information on your daughter’s friends and what is going on socially from school — coaches, teachers, and others who can observe and share information.

Involve your child in activities and opportunities with former friends or those with the same values, to help her understand the difference between the two sets of friends.

Give your teen a place to feel good about herself — an activity where her interests are high and she can pursue her passion and develop a stronger sense of self.

[The ADHD Library for Parents]

We May Have Eliminated “Last Picked” But Not “Picked On”

Gym class was 45 minutes of purgatory for me in elementary school. I could not catch a ball and I was just not athletic. Try as I might, I was last picked.

We have eliminated picking kids for teams and the torturous wait to see if anyone else could be the victim of being last picked, but here is the thing – we have not eliminated the core issue and perhaps we cannot.  

Kids are still going to be picked on at school and we should not underestimate the power of that dread. As we are well into the school year, many kids are falling victim to the class bully. Others may be suffering from being left out of the “in” crowd, silently scolded for being different simply by the fact that they are on the periphery and are not welcomed into a group.

This is a lonely place, yet there is a solution. Don’t focus on the bully. Focus on the kid who is left out and his specific challenges with appropriate social skills. We can rightly report the bully, but many times the shunning is subtle and it leaves the left out kid with no recourse.

Now I was never going to be first pick, but it was social skills and being good at something else that saved me. So let’s look at a few things that kids can change.

Here are some suggestions:

1. Try to understand what social skills the child may need to develop.  Then work on how he can develop those skills. This will take time but often kids are left out because they do not know how to present socially appealing behaviors.

2. Give him a place to be happy, to be a star in HIS comfort zone where his talents can shine through. A safe harbor or comforting atmosphere is important so the child can feel that he is talented, which will, in turn, help him feel better about himself, and help him preserve his self-esteem.

3. Create a plan for him to implement when he comes up against someone teasing or bullying him. Work on role-playing and rehearsing his response to his classmates who are picking on him. Be sure to protect the child. Make a point to visit the school so they are aware of the situation and can provide the physical safety he needs.

4. Arrange play-dates and activities with kids who have similar interests. This will provide him with another social outlet. When a child is unique they may have to seek a new pool of friends; having someone who they can connect with is crucial. 

5. Talk openly with him about what he feels and help him name his emotions. Ask him questions about what his day is like. Brainstorm ways he can navigate the social scene more effectively. Often, left out kids do not know how to join a group or know how to approach potential friends.

It’s natural to worry about your kids. But remember, a child doesn’t need to be in the “in” group or be good at sports or invited to a lot of parties. What’s important at this stage is to help the child understand what his strengths are and where he can showcase them. By helping him build a toolkit so he can identify his emotions and understand his actions and how others perceive him, is a great start to identifying those positive social behaviors. 

A Castle with Walls Too Thick to Penetrate

One of my clients this week told me that social life is like a castle. The walls are just too high and too thick to climb and you cannot get in unless someone lets the draw bridge down.  

So many kids feel this way. They do not know what to do – so at lunch they head for the library or to the bathroom to bide their time and hide out. Maybe you were one of these kids and you can relate to the feeling that the social world is just an insurmountable tower of terror. Kids and teenagers often share with me that they cannot figure out how to change things. They are unsure how to climb the tower walls or even cajole people to let the draw bridge down. And so they avoid social interactions all together.  

Avoidance is a sign. Not a sign that the child does not care. Or a sign that he lacks motivation, is resistant, or is just uninterested in having friends, but a sign that he does not know how to break down the barriers so he can participate, or “join in”. Without a roadmap or help with his social plan, children and teenagers often shut down.  

So I ask parents to reframe their thoughts about a child or teenager who avoids socialization. Hiding in one’s room playing video games is not always about a bad attitude. Sometimes children just do not know how to climb the walls of the castle and break in.

If you are waiting to see if things will change without help, let me share with you that they will not. The child alone does not have the skills yet to navigate this kind of change. They do not know how to enter the lunchroom and connect with their peers, and sit down and join a group. 

Good news!! When children receive guidance and are provided with specific steps on how to navigate social situations to make friends, they build new skills and often become more interested in joining in.

Birthday Parties, the Cafeteria, and Other Social Obstacles

You learned that your middle-schooler is skipping lunch to avoid the cafeteria. Should you address it head-on, giving her advice that she probably won’t listen to, or demand that she go to lunch? It is hard to know. The cafeteria is where everyone comes together to socialize and hang out. For a child with ADHD, lunch can be very challenging.

Social struggles are not restricted to school. Children have the same deficits at home, at stores, on the ball field, and in every life setting. Many kids want to improve their friendship skills, but don’t know how. That’s where you come in.

Working with your child to meet social challenges leads to behaviors that your child can use everywhere. The following strategies will help your child make friends – and move through the socially difficult years of adolescence more easily.

How do I help my son stop avoiding the school cafeteria?

Children avoid the cafeteria because they are bullied, but also because they don’t know how to interact with peers, join a conversation, or even where to sit.

> Debrief your child. Without telling your child he is doing anything wrong, ask open-ended questions to find out what he thinks is happening. Ask about whom he sits with, when he feels uncomfortable, or if there are friends he would like to sit with.

> Practice skills. Nothing is tougher for kids than joining a conversation that is in progress. Suggest a little detective work. Ask your child to go to lunch, listen to what everyone talks about, and report back. You and he can role-play conversations that build on the topics the group talks about most often.

> Get outside help. Avoidance is not a plan, so if your child can’t navigate social situations, have her work with a professional social skills group.

How can I help my child when she isn’t invited to class parties?

If a child isn’t invited to birthday parties, concerts, or other peer activities, it is time to team up and find out what might be causing the problem.

> Discuss things, without blame, to help your child diagnose why she isn’t fitting in. Walk her through her day at school and ask her to recount one or two of the social interactions she had – what she said to a classmate, how that child reacted – and discuss what she thinks she could have done differently.

> Talk about different types of friendship. Many children with social challenges try to make friends with kids who do not share their interests, or they misinterpret social cues and think any friendly person wants to be friends. Help your child understand different kinds of “friendships”: There are people you say hello to, acquaintances, people you interact with, and real friends. Brainstorm with her about ways to befriend children with whom she shares interests and who treat her well.

> Find ways to meet others with similar interests – social clubs, youth groups, and other interest-based activities. These places give your child a chance to socialize by talking about things the kids like in common.

How can I make group projects less intimidating for my daughter?

Group projects are tough for her because she has to contribute, advocate for her ideas, participate in the discussion, and present a final project. The following case study shows how to make group projects less challenging for your child.

Ali is 12 years old, and she hates group projects. She and her mom write the teacher asking for advice about what she can do better in the next group project. The teacher says Ali should speak up more and identify a role she would like to take on in the project.

Ali’s mom understands the unspoken social dynamics in play – children meet in large groups, and assumptions are made about Ali and what she might be able to do on the project. Ali is left out of the decision-making because she doesn’t speak up. Ali and her mom discuss the personalities within the group, their likes and dislikes, and so on. Ali puts together a social database about her partners in the group project, so she can talk more comfortably with her peers.

Ali does better socially when she has a plan. She and her mom look at the project rubric and discuss which components seem interesting and manageable to Ali, and decide what Ali would like to take on. They rehearse possible scenarios. Role-playing, and learning how to ask open-ended questions, helps Ali build the confidence to speak up during the group’s discussions.

With all the prep at home, Ali slowly overcomes her social struggles and plays an important part in the group. And she has a plan she can use for the next group project.

My son has lots of virtual friends, but how do I encourage him to develop friends he can talk with one-on-one?

Connecting to other people, adapting to their needs, and engaging in the give-and-take of friendship are important skills all kids need to learn.

> Let him have virtual friends. Facebook friends and Twitter buddies may be your son’s only friends right now, and you don’t want him to lose them.

> Talk to him about why he needs other friends. Ask your child what he likes about the virtual world. Find another activity that he may like – a course in robotics or computer coding – in which he will interact with people.

> Work on social strategies. Whether it’s engaging in chitchat, turning an acquaintance into a friend, or arranging to see people outside of school, it is essential that your son knows how to approach people. With consistent practice, he will get what you and every child wants: good friends.

This article was originally published at ADDITUDE. Reprinted with permission from the author.

 

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