This article was written by our friend and colleague, Eric J. Nach, PH.D., M.ED., ASD CERTIFIED, who has nearly 25 years experience working with children with special needs and their families. For more information on his work, you can visit supportforstudentsgrowthcenter.com
Important Life Social Skills – Friendship, Self-Control and Problem Solving
The ability to regulate one’s emotions is an important but hard skill for some children to develop. However, this skill is essential if children are to develop friendships and to be accepted by others. Other children tend to steer clear of peers who can’t manage their emotions – be it the child who cries over small issues or who gets angry when things don’t go their way. One way to help your child keep cool: urge them to take a break – breathe deeply or take a drink of water – whenever emotions rise. Secondly, encourage your child to express their emotions in an acceptable way. Talk about your own emotions (“I’m so frustrated: I can’t find my bag!”) and label your child’s emotions (“You look disappointed”). Eventually your child will be able to express his own feelings and have an easier time reading the feelings of others, too. Basically you are becoming an emotional coach for your child. Essentially you are skilling your child up in recognizing and labeling emotions and teaching strategies to manage them better.
Encourage Problem Solving Skills
There are a number of school yard behaviors that will ostracize children if the child frequently engages in such behaviors. Such difficult behaviors include frequent complaining, ‘dobbing’ or ‘telling on’ other children, lying or making a fuss over small difficulties in interactions. To manage and reduce such behaviors it is important to help your child to learn the difference between a small deal (someone jumps in front of you in line) and a big deal (an older child threatens you or physically hurts you). With big problems you seek help; with little problems, you work it out.
It is also important for your child to develop coping skills which will facilitate the development of resilience in them. Finally, you can remind your child that every problem has several solutions. For example, if your child is teased, you can ask him if he can think of ways to respond. Some possibilities: Walk away. Or teach your child to respond confidently to the other child, by saying “Stop talking like that.”
Promote Skills in Learning How to Give and Take in Interactions
The ability to learn how to be reciprocal is essential in any friendship. Being reciprocal is basically learning how to ‘give and take’ in an interaction and in friendships. One strategy to help children develop reciprocity is to ‘model reciprocity’.
It is important that children observe reciprocity in the interactions around them. Show them ‘sharing’ (“Anyone wants some of my lollies?”), turn taking (“You can use the bike first”) and the art of conversational give-and-take (“How’d you like Superman? What was the best part?”). Listening to your child can be hard, especially if you’re harried and have several children, but it really helps to spend even 15 minutes a night listening to them, conversing and being fully present.
It also helps to “catch” kids when they’re being considerate. It is important to emphasize the internal rewards that come with thinking of others, how it makes other feel and how everyone benefits to treat others with compassion.
Eric Nach, Ph.D., M.Ed., A.S.D. Cert.
Developmental and Behavioral Specialist and Associates
5458 Town Center Rd, Boca Raton, FL 33486
561-990-7305 / DrNach@SupportForStudentsGrowthCenter.com