At a glance
Kids who learn and think differently may have trouble connecting with other kids.
Check in with your child’s teacher to see how things are going socially at school.
You can role-play at home to help your child learn social basics.
Grade school is a time when many kids build their first important friendships. But kids who learn and think differently don’t always have the social skills they need to connect with other kids. That can leave them feeling lonely or isolated. Here are ways to help when your child is lonely.
Watch your child in action.
If there’s a family gathering or kids are at your home, see how your child interacts. Does your child interrupt or stand too close to other kids? Is joining a game or conversation hard? This information will give you an idea of where your child needs help.
Talk with the teacher.
Find out how things are going socially at school. Ask what’s going well and what isn’t. Maybe your child is trying to hang out with a group that’s just not interested. Or maybe your child isn’t aware of a classmate who’d like to become friends.
The teacher may be willing to help your child make connections. For example, in group activities, the teacher might put your child in a group with kids who are more accepting.
Work on social skills at home.
When you have some downtime, practice social skills together. Brainstorm how your child might approach a group and ask to join their game or sit at the same lunch table.
Role-play conversations and come up with strategies. For example, what questions could your child ask the other person to keep the conversation going?
Ask about social skills groups at school.
Some schools offer group sessions to help kids learn skills that other kids have already developed. Therapists outside of school also offer social skills groups.
Get your child together with new kids.
Help your child find new kids to socialize with. See if the teacher can suggest some classmates who might be a good fit. Then you can reach out to the parents to see if their child wants to come over to play. That gives your child the chance to be social in a safe space.
Look into afterschool activities.
Lots of schools have afterschool programs and extracurricular activities your child can participate in. Doing things outside of the regular school day lets your child meet kids with similar interests. With any luck, it can open up a new social world for your child.
There’s a lot you can do to build social skills and help your child feel less alone. Learn how to boost your child’s self-esteem. And discover ways to help your child build on strengths.
Schools sometimes have social skills groups to help kids build skills.
Encourage your child to play with new kids, not ones who haven’t worked out.
Activities after school can help your child meet other kids with similar interests.
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About the author
About the author
Kate Kelly has been writing and editing for more than 20 years, with a focus on parenting.
Molly Algermissen, PhD is an associate professor of medical psychology at Columbia University Medical Center and clinical director of PROMISE.