Parenting Coach

Practical ideas for social, emotional and behavioral challenges

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Use role-playing.

What you can do

Help your child prepare for new situations by using role-playing. Think through scenarios that might happen, from the beginning to the end of an event.

You play one role and have your child play another to practice different ways the event might unfold. Talk through what’s different in each case, and practice different ways to respond. At some point, switch roles to help your child think about the event from different points of view.

What you can say

“Jacob, when we meet up with Nate at the park tomorrow, we can bring your new dump truck to play with in the sandbox. Do you think Nate will want to use it too? Maybe we could bring your bulldozer so Nate will have something to play with.”

“But let’s think about what you can say if Nate wants the dump truck. You could say, ‘I just got this truck so I want to play with it for a while first. You can have the bulldozer and then we can switch, OK?’ Why don’t we practice that? I’ll pretend to be Nate, and let’s see what you can say back to me when I ask to play with your new truck.”

“That’s a nice way to say it, Jacob. Good job. What if Nate says ‘I don’t want the bulldozer’? Yes, you could tell him he can play with the dump truck after you get a chance. It’s OK to say how you feel about your truck. But it’s also being a nice friend to offer Nate another toy to play with. OK, how about we try that again, and you can play Nate this time and I’ll pretend to be you.”

Why this will help

Role-playing helps children come up with useful strategies. It also helps them remember these strategies later on when they really need them.

Thinking about other people’s perspectives is a great way to improve social skills. Practicing these skills ahead of time will help your child feel less anxious and more prepared for new social situations.

Role-playing also lets kids practice self-advocacy skills in a comfortable setting. Knowing how to express their needs and who to ask for assistance will help them feel confident enough to start doing these things at school and in other settings.

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