Grade school is a time when many kids build their first important friendships. But kids with learning and attention issues can lack some of the social skills they need to make important connections with their peers. This might make them feel lonely or somewhat isolated. Here are some ways to help.
Pay a visit to school.
Chaperone a class trip or volunteer to help run a bake sale after school so you can see how your child is with other kids. Does he know how to join a group? Is he doing things that might be bothering other kids?
For example, maybe he has a hard time taking turns or doesn’t respect other people’s space. Or maybe he seems afraid of trying to interact. This information will give you an idea of what’s hard for him and where he needs help.
Have a chat with his teacher.
Ask for her observations on what’s going well and what’s not going so well. Perhaps your child is trying to hang out with a group that’s not interested in him. At the same time, he may not even be aware of another great kid who would welcome his company.
When planning group activities, the teacher may be willing to place your child with kids who are more likely to accept him and want to be friends with him.
Work on social skills at home.
Take the challenge on as a team and have some fun practicing social skills together. Brainstorm how your child might approach a group and ask if he can join their game or lunch table.
If he complains that he can’t think of what to say during conversations, come up with questions that show he’s interested in the person who’s talking. When your child begins to see that kids are responding more positively to him, he’ll feel encouraged to keep trying.
Look into a social skills training class.
Some schools offer group sessions to help kids learn skills that come more naturally to others. Therapists outside of school also offer social skills groups.
Ask your child if there’s a nice kid he might want to invite over. Gently steer him away from children he’s had no luck with in the past. If the teacher gave you the names of classmates who might be a good fit, call the parent of one of them to see if her child would like to come over. A playdate at your house gives your child the chance to have fun and be social in a warm and familiar place.
Sign up for afterschool activities.
Afterschool programs and extracurricular activities could be an interesting and fun way to liven up your child’s afternoon. He might make a friend while working on a puzzle or putting together crafts. And he may even discover he’s terrific at something new. That confidence boost could give him a little more courage to form new friendships.
There’s a lot you can do to build social skills and help ease your child’s feelings of social discomfort. Learn more about boosting self-esteem and helping kids build on their strengths. You can also look into whether therapy might be worth considering. Remember that with you in his corner, your child will never be truly “alone.”