By Laura Lebovitz, LAMFT, Grow Counseling
Summer can be a great time to focus on beings ocial and connecting with others. If your kid seems shy or is struggling to make or keep friends, then here are several ways you can help them increase their social skills and network of friends.
Empathize then problem solve.
It can be tempting to immediately jump into problem solving when you see your kid struggling to make or keep friends. Try to help them recognize how they are feeling and then empathize with them before helping them figure out what to do next. Try saying things like “it sounds like you are feeling nervous” or “that sounds like a really frustrating situation”. Once your child feels heard and understood, they will be more likely to open up and feel ready to problem solve how to handle a stressful situation.
Practice, practice, practice.
Kids learn how to handle a variety of social situations by watching how you handle things and modeling your behavior. Make it a point to model the social skills you’d like to see in your kids. Say hi to others, ask lots of questions, talk about how different people perceive the same situation, and always look others in the eye. You can even make a game of it by role-playing different situations they might find themselves in or specific interactions they struggle with.
Give them opportunities to succeed socially.
Be proactive and organize play dates for your kids. If possible, find activities that allow you to watch them socialize with others and look for areas they may need a little help navigating. Socializing on play dates where it is more one-on-one is way more forgiving than socializing in a large group at school and can even help create new friendships. If your kid has a particular interest or hobby, camps or other activities where they can meet others with similar interests can be helpful, too.
Laura Lebovitz is a licensed associate marriage and family therapist who works in the Suwanee area at GROW Counseling. She received her Masters of Family Therapy from Mercer University School of Medicine. She works with children, adolescents, young adults, and families dealing with a variety of concerns. She specializes in working with anxiety, autism, self-harm, life transitions like divorce, and building healthy relationships within families.