Are you worried about your child or teen’s lack of social skills?
Do you think your child is too shy, doesn’t have any friends, or is pushing potential friends away?
Is your child struggling to communicate effectively with you or others because they become frustrated or angry?
Does he or she seem unable to understand the complex social situations they face at school?
If so, you’re far from alone. Just take a look at some of the worries I discovered on the internet expressed by concerned parents:
“My son told me last night he's upset because he feels he has no friends. I've been worried about him for a while because when school is out, he spends most of his time at home, usually playing Minecraft on his laptop. When I asked him why he doesn't try to arrange things himself and invite people from school, instead of waiting for other people to invite him, he said he didn't think that would work. He also said that when he hangs out in groups, he feels like the other people in the group are just 'tolerating his presence' rather than actually wanting him there.”
“My seven year old son has social anxiety that has gotten to the point where he usually doesn't want to leave the house. He's ok going to school and to some other activities he's enrolled in. However, getting him to go and play at the park is near impossible. If we do get him there, he doesn't want to play if there are other kids there. He pretty much refuses to interact with strangers.”
Young people are also often upset about their troubles with social skills and ask for advice on their own, as you can see from these last two comments, found in an internet search (the language and spelling are cute, but the angst is all too real):
“Okay, So Like Im 14, Im Super Shy Around New People. & The Big Thing About It Is That Im Going On A Cruise & They Have This Like Teen Club Thing & My Step Mom Wants Me To Hang Out There When I Want To. But Im Really Shy So I Don't Really Know, Sooo I Need Some Advice BIG Time!! Please & Thankies!!”
“I dont wanna be shy anymore? Im really shy im 14 and a girl i hate being shy its no fun no boys wanna talk to you and you dont have many friends what do i do?
Fortunately, there are ways your child or teenager can better master social skills, thanks to Caitlin Young, BCBA and Applied Behavioral Analyst.
What is Applied Behavioral Analysis?
Applied Behavioral Analysis, or ABA, is simply a therapeutic technique that involves collecting information based on how a person responds to situations. For instance, take note of how your child interacts with others (teachers, peers, and parents) when stressed. Using that information, you can create a treatment plan to address their behavior, thereby teaching her new skills to better cope with these situations.
Method #1: Scenarios
One way to teach your child new social skills is to create scenarios. Caitlin can develop scenarios for him to practice (such as how to start a conversation, or talk to girls). This way, when these situations come up in real life, he can be better prepared. Some ideas include:
- Making requests to teachers or peers appropriately.
- How to make eye contact with others.
- Remembering to use social norms such as please or thank-you.
Method #2: Role Modeling
Your child can also watch other young people or adults model appropriate behaviors. This could be done in real-life or by watching a video. Then your child will have a resource to refer to when practicing the new technique.
Method #3: Self-Critique
As part of role modeling, your child or teen may also be recorded while practicing a scenario. They can then watch the playback to critique themselves on how they handled various situations. If your child is hesitant, remind them that professional athletes do this all the time to improve their performance on the field!
Method #4: Journaling
While at school, your child can take notes in a small journal about how they handled social situations. When they meet with Caitlin, they can look back on these entries and review them together. For instance, they may be encouraged to ask questions like:
- What happened?
- How did I handle the situation?
- What could I have done differently?
- What method would have been more effective?
In this way, they become scientists, recording data they can later use to improve their own social skills.
Method #5: Art
Art can also be used for developing social skills. Art is a powerful medium for expressing oneself as well as for learning. Your child could:
- Write a story about characters who learn new social skills.
- Draw a picture or comic of social situations and how to best resolve them.
- Make a song to remember when facing a difficult social situation.
With art, the only limitations are your child’s imagination and creativity.
Method #6: Games
A way to use positive-reinforcement for appropriate social skills is by making a game out of it. Your child can create characters that earn lives, points, levels etc. for successfully completing challenges related to social skills. This could be effective if your child likes board games, video games, or is interested in game development, as it harnesses their interests for emotional learning.
Method #7: Reward Systems
Another way of designing positive-reinforcement is to create a rewards system. For instance, if your teen struggles with getting frustrated easily, but uses a breathing technique to calm down, they can report the skill used and count it toward a reward. This can help them earn reward points, stickers, etc. for something significant they would like, such as free time of their choosing.
As you can see, there are many solutions available for teaching your child or teen social skills. With the help of Caitlin Young, they can master these skills and overcome their frustration and anxiety. Soon, they will be better prepared for whatever social situations arise.