8 Signs That Your Child/Teen Needs Social Coaching
By Nadine Briggs
Has your child’s social life has been an area of concern for some time but you’re not quite sure what he/she needs? Do you wonder why they don’t ask to have friends over? Do you see social media posts from friends that show their kids attending birthday parties and going on outings? You know that your child is a great kid, but why can’t others see that too?
We all want our kids to have a few solid friends, but for some, those friendships just don’t happen. Or perhaps your child makes friends but then something happens where the friendship doesn’t last. You might be wondering, should my child/teen get some help with their social skills? Here are some signs to look for:
Misinterprets Social Situations
Many kids either don’t pick up on social cues at all or they misinterpret what’s actually going on. We see this often among kids who don’t understand humor or sarcasm. They might become upset by a joke or sarcasm that wasn’t intended to be taken literally. Their negative reaction to something that was intended to be lighthearted can turn kids away.
Trying to control others in social situations is one of the most common issues that we see at Simply Social Kids. Kids might try to control what is played or the conversation. They tend to want what they want, when they want it, and they don’t consider another’s wants or interests. They might appear to be selfish, but they aren’t at all. They simply don’t stop to think about another’s preferences. This way of interacting is the opposite of what friendship truly means. Friendship is reciprocal and another’s view should be considered. Kids need to understand this basic social skill to provide the right mindset to make friends.
Lack of Invitations
This is an obvious one, but a lack of invitations to hang out is sign that they don’t have a group of friends who are including them in their social lives. This could be because other kids don’t feel close enough to invite them, or it could be that your child never asked the other kids to hang out. Every time I ask older kids if they hung out with anyone over the weekend, they will say that no one contacted them to hang. If I ask who they contacted to hang out, the answer is nearly always no one. Kids need to understand that they can initiate socializing and that the sit-back-and-let-them-come-to-me approach might result in some lonely weekends.
Lack of Conversation Skills
Generationally, it seems that kids don’t know how to talk to each other. Conversation leads to connection. Talking to one another is how we learn if we have shared interests and if we think we’d get along as friends. Kids who don’t know how to talk to others or who get too anxious about talking to potential friends will have a hard time connecting. Conversely, kids who talk all the time, try to be funny often, talk only about their interests in a monologue way vs a dialogue, and/or who speak all of their thoughts without a filter, all could benefit from social coaching.
If your child is frequently grumpy or sleepy during social time, then they probably don’t understand that they should bring their “social self” to the situation. We see this a lot at Simply Social Kids and remind kids daily that no one is seeking to have more sleepy and grumpy friends. They are reminded to bring the side of them that wants friends and that being positive and friendly paves the way.
Anxiety can be a huge barrier for many kids when it comes to socializing. They can feel worried about being rejected, saying the wrong thing, and end up trying to avoid hanging out with peers altogether. This is especially concerning for older kids who are beginning to separate from their parents. They need a peer group that accepts them. Kids who learn how to socialize and begin to have some success socially, can overcome these fears and form friendships.
If your child can’t be open to another’s idea or way to play then they could probably benefit from some social coaching. They probably don’t even realize that their rigidity is part of the problem. It prevents kids from considering other’s ideas and viewpoints and can be a hindrance to finding and keeping friends. This is similar to seeking control but it’s also not recognizing that social skills are not “right” or “wrong” but very nuanced. Even game play isn’t black and white. There are various ways to lay the card game, Uno, for example. Kids with rigid thinking will think that their way of playing is the only “right” way.
Bullies will tend to bully those who they think will give them a juicy reaction or who will just take it without pushing back. This is not to blame the victim for being bullied, but kids with social challenges are more likely to be targeted. They often don’t have the emotion regulation to respond without exploding or looking sad. This will likely encourage the bully to continue to pick on that child. Coaching helps kids understand the dynamics at play when someone is trying to upset them and how to react so the bully becomes bored with them and moves on.
As a parent, if you observe that your child is not one of the crowd, not included or making you cringe when you see them try to interact, then it could be time to get them some social skills help. Whether or not to join a social skills group should be a parental decision and not left up to the individual who needs the coaching. Many kids will avoid things that are hard for them and they don’t always know what’s best for themselves. Some of the participants who enjoy our program the most, were also the most reluctant to try. They are also the ones that have the most to gain.
If your child/teen/young adult needs coaching to help them make friends, contact us to schedule a trial https://calendly.com/simplysocialkids/30min or find out more about our weekly programs by contacting us at 978-764-2758 or firstname.lastname@example.org.