Parenting Coach

Practical ideas for social, emotional and behavioral challenges

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Practice standing at the right distance.

What you can do

Help your child see that standing too close to people can make them feel uncomfortable. Show her the appropriate distance for people engaging in conversation.

Use role-playing to practice where to stand during different kinds of social interactions. Work together to come up with strategies to remind her about this issue. Praise her whenever you notice her choosing an appropriate distance with friends or classmates.

What you can say

“Sofia, you might want to be a bit more aware of how close you’re standing to people when you’re talking. When you and Emma were in the kitchen yesterday, you were so close to her that she backed up twice to put a little space between you and her.”

“It’s OK to be up close if you’re telling someone a secret. But if you’re having a regular conversation, people usually want you to stand at least a couple of feet away from them. I know it doesn’t bother you, but it seemed to bother Emma.”

“Think of people as having their own little safety shields around them. This is called personal space. If you get too close and invade someone’s personal space, her defenses go up and she’ll start to move away. People who stand uncomfortably close are sometimes called close talkers. This is something you want to avoid doing.”

“Let’s practice this for a couple of minutes together. It might also be good to figure out a word or phrase you can say to yourself before you start a conversation. This can be your way of reminding yourself to make sure there’s some space between you and the person you’re getting ready to talk to.”

“In the theater, just before the curtain goes up, someone backstage says, ‘Places, everyone, places!’ Do you think that phrase might help you remember to position yourself about an arm’s length away?”

Why this will help

Children with learning and attention issues often need to be explicitly taught certain social skills. This includes knowing how far to stand from other kids during a conversation.

You can help your child be more mindful of this by discussing how standing too close can make people uncomfortable. Practicing at home will also help her get better at remembering how far away to stand.

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