Develop a secret signal your child can use if she needs you to step in and help redirect activity during a playdate or other social gathering. Later, when you and your child have some time alone, talk about what made things start to go off track. Discuss strategies that might help in the future.
What you can say
“Sofia, it seemed as if you and Jade were having such a good time. But then all of a sudden you began to cry. When I peeked in, I saw your dresser was a mess and Jade was wearing all of your jewelry.”
“I know how you feel about your stuff, so I understand why you were upset. Sometimes things don’t go right when friends visit and it’s too embarrassing to tell on them. Then, before you know it, you become overwhelmed and emotional.”
“To make sure this won’t happen again, let’s come up with a secret signal you can use if you need me to step in and help out when things get a little rough. What do you think of this idea?”
“If you’re with a friend and think that you might wind up in a situation that is beyond your control, you can pop into whatever room I’m in and touch the tip of your nose. That will give me the signal to check in and smooth things out before there is a big problem. Let’s give it a try and see how it goes, OK?”
Why this will help
Developing a secret distress signal will allow your child to reach out to you without losing face. This will spare her the embarrassment of what might be construed as “tattling.” It will also enable you to redirect or replace the problematic activity with one that is more productive.