We all want to see our children thrive, academically, socially, and emotionally. Some children seem to do all of these things with ease, but the truth is, everyone struggles from time to time.
Teachers at The Christ School value the importance of supporting the ‘whole child,’ from academics to social development. They are empowered to work together to address student issues. Social and emotional support are just as important as academic support. Sometimes, you can’t see the academic piece thrive without the social and emotional pieces in place as well. One of the ways we do that is by providing the service of a school counselor to serve as a resource for students and teachers. Through helping our students with social and emotional health, we also help them to be ready to learn.
Parents can play a big role in helping their child thrive in each of these areas. Don't take it for granted that children just automatically know how to be a friend. Just like they need to practice the steps for addition and subtraction, they need to practice social skills, too. Here are tips for parents to help their children as they navigate through social involvements:
It is important for our children to feel liked, and it is an added blessing for them to have a close friend or two with whom they can confide. Here are some tips to help your child make friends, and once that friendship is made, how to nourish it.
Encourage your child to “be a Noticer.” Being a Noticer involves more observing than talking. Ask your child to look beyond themselves, and identify a child who may be new, or who may need a friend. Encourage your child to notice things about them, perhaps to find something of a common interest. This is a great way to begin a conversation with an unfamiliar child. “I noticed that you have a Star Wars lunch box. I like Star Wars, too.”
Teach your child about Matthew 7:12. “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” You may also know this as the Golden Rule. Practice this behavior with your child, and encourage them to think about it as they relate to others, no matter their age.
Encourage positive behavior. As parents, we often find ourselves saying “don’t do this, or don’t do that” to our children and teens about their interactions with others. Rather than picking out what they did wrong, be intentional about trying to see the positive behavior they are displaying, and then reinforce it. This doesn’t come easy, but if you intentionally look for the positive things your child does rather than focusing on the negative, your child will begin to focus on positive behavior, as well.
Being a friend
One way to help your child be a good friend is to learn more about how your child interacts with others. Observe your child in a variety of social situations. This will help you gain a deeper understanding of their social strengths and weaknesses.
Some children need “the hidden curriculum.” The things that most people just “get,” some people don’t. Things like when it is okay to interrupt, or when it is okay to enter a conversation, or when it is best to keep your thoughts to yourself. Role-playing is always helpful. During family time, practice what to do in different social situations. Take turns being the child and the friend, and talk about why some questions and answers are nice, thoughtful, or appropriate, and why some are not.
Teach your child or teen to think of others; to walk in other people’s shoes. Help them think of how people are different, and talk about being sensitive to the needs and feelings of others. For example, sometimes a child doesn’t want to participate in a certain activity because they are either not good at it or they just don’t enjoy it. A child who isn’t as good at sports may not want to play football, but they might enjoy participating in an art activity. Try to encourage being a big picture thinker - having alternative ideas for activities and not being stuck in what is comfortable. They may even learn a new activity that they will enjoy.
Remind your child that being a good friend includes being a cheerleader for their friends. Encourage them to be happy for their friends’ successes, share their sorrows, and allow their friend to have space when needed. This does not come naturally for all people. It is often something children need to learn and practice as they mature.
When there is conflict
Even in the best of friendships, conflicts can arise. Ideally, we want our children to learn to solve conflicts on their own. Here are a few ways that parents can enable their child to be problem-solvers:
Proactively talk with your children about the times they may feel frustrated in a social situation; try not to handle the situation in the heat of the moment when emotions are high. Take some time for them to calm down and be ready to hear you. Be an “emotion coach.” Talk to your child about their feelings in a systematic, problem-solving way.
Role-play with your child. A parent can role-play different scenarios. Talk about ways to react in different circumstances.
Practice “I statements.” These will help your child express their feelings in a non-confrontational manner when issues arise. For example, “I feel sad when you called me a name,” or “I feel hurt when you tease me.” This can help a child identify their feelings, and learn how to better understand their emotions when a problem arises. Communicating using I statements allows the child to express the consequences of the other child’s actions in a more sensitive way.
Encourage your child to pray for a child who is not always kind, or is having trouble making or keeping friends.
Alissa Plaisance currently serves as Student Support Specialist at The Christ School on the First Pres campus in downtown Orlando. She earned her Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts in Exceptional Education from the University of Central Florida and has earned an Elementary and Autism Spectrum Disorders Certification from the University of Central Florida. thechristschool.org