Making Friends Do’s & Don’ts
To be a good friend a child must be able to consistently be flexible, sensitive, responsive, be able to read social situations, take a joke, etc,. Often kids with LDs are very concrete thinkers, which makes them inflexible and get them into more conflicts with their classmates, siblings, families.
To be able to effectively join in a social group a child must be able to read and interpret the clues of how best to join in. The child will also need the:
- Ability to establish & maintain friendships
- Ability to resolve conflicts
- Ability to pay attention to social skills
How can parents help?
- Listen, acknowledge and validate your child’s feelings – even the difficult ones!
- Create a home atmosphere that is tolerant and accepting
- Use structure for daily routines
- Consistency in discipline
- Appropriate expectations
- Support & Reassurance
When children/adolescents know that it is okay to feel things and can communicate these feelings it boosts their self-esteem.
Recognize that impulsivity and distractibility may look like the child is not interested, being rude etc. While these are serious issues that must be addressed it is important to try and not take them personally…..it would be similar to getting upset with a child with epilepsy for having a seizure but not giving them their medicine or taking them to the doctor…..you can’t ignore the symptom of the disorder (the seizure) but you must treat the cause if you want to ever be able to control the disorder itself.
Social Skills Do’s
- Of course, you can’t teach/discuss other ways of doing things in times of stress – for example if you’re child is going to a birthday party next week and they are anxious about it practice the week before how to hand over their gift to the birthday boy and how to accept the treat bag – doing it beforehand will be better than in the car on the way to the party when nerves will be running high.
- Show genuine interest in what the child does – ask questions, take time to learn more!
- Other suggestions:
- Behaviour that receives attention will likely be repeated
- Positive feedback can change behaviour
- Logical consequences can change behaviour
- Clear expectations, rules and limits
- Viable and frequent choices can minimize power struggles
- Proactive rather than Reactive
- Role model the expected behaviour and social skills
Reinforcers can be very effective – catch a child being good and give them praise and reward them in the act of being good rather than the incentive approach which rarely works.
Social Skills Don’t
- The sink or swim approach often doesn’t work – enrolling your child in various activities such as scouts or soccer where they will have to interact with others to succeed often is not successful – always exceptions…..when your child is extremely skilled at something more allowances are made, certain activities lend themselves better than others but generally without certain adaptations put into place it is likely that if your child has social skills deficits they will struggle in all social settings.
- Incentives such as “if you are good at grandma’s for supper, we will stop for ice cream on the way home”, tend to also be ineffective. Like saying to a child who should have glasses on, if you can read the board without your glasses today, we will stop and get ice cream on the way home. These types of incentives presume that the child is capable of the behavior and it is just a choice he/she is making not to comply rather than a neurological deficit that makes it impossible for him to control his/her actions.
- Don’t necessarily discourage the child from having friendships with younger children – may be seeking more developmentally appropriate friendships that allow them to achieve a status that would otherwise be out of their reach.
- Don’t force a child to participate in large groups or in highly competitive activities, if they don’t want to. You can work their way up to adding more kids in and try to find sports that are at their level and focus more on participation.
- Don’t assume that child understood oral directions if they don’t ask questions – ask them to repeat back what you said to determine that they got it.
- Don’t scold your child if they tell you about a social confrontation, etc as they might become reluctant to share with you in the future. Try to use the opportunity to discuss other ways they could have handled the situation.
- Punishments don’t tend to work as they don’t teach appropriate behavior, kids become immune to them and just tried to avoid the situations in which they are being punished the most; might come up with inappropriate strategies to avoid punishments, such as lying, cheating, blaming others, etc. The point of the punishment is often lost in the resultant fear, anger, anxiety, stress and tension of the act itself. Children generally associate the punishment with the punisher, not the offending behavior ie: “the coach yelled at me today” vs. ” I got in trouble today because I punched someone in gym class”.