My Child is Lonely, What Should I Do?

Questions involving lonely children and teens have been coming up a lot recently. Parents are struggling with the pain associated with loneliness – parents of all ages and circumstances.

Q: What Can I do if My Child is Lonely?

If you notice a pattern, i.e. your child’s friends aren’t talking to her, help her figure out the reasons why.

Lonely TeenDon’t tell, but rather ask, “How come?” If your child is coming to you and saying they are being left out – that is so much easier than the child who denies he has a problem. If your child approaches you and claims, “I wish I could have more friends,” then you now have a critical role in this dialog.

Ask yourself questions first. Are they at the age that you can help them orchestrate some sort of social life? If yes, help them to reach out more or be the host family.

Reaching out feels hard to some kids due to rejection. Others feel people should come to them. Try Social Spy to see what other kids do. Do they wait, do their mother’s arrange or do they reach out to others on their own?

Q: What if I Know My Child is Lonely but He Won’t Admit It?

“I’m fine, I don”t need a ton of friends”

You watch your child being treated badly by others and because they are desperate, they allow it to happen. Your child or teen may be pretending to have friends, but really doesn’t have many.

When you inquire, you are encountered by resistance, deflection or denial.

Start by asking questions and holding back your opinions. The more you use open questions and repeat back, the more information you will get. Some kids really need infrastructure.

Ask Questions – Using open questions and having a collaborative conversation allows your child to be more self-reflective and builds his self-awareness muscle. Talk about what makes a good friend. Ask, “Who do you sit with?” “Who do you like?” Read more social / friend questions

Avoid Shaming – Be careful not to shame your child as some kids have a sort of bravado because they feel kids are supposed to have lots of friends. This year has been hard on everyone, re-entering life after Covid may be a great excuse to explore with your child, “Who do you want to be friends with?”  Ask him, “What do you enjoy about certain friends?” The more you ask questions in short light conversations, and explore friendship and connection – the more your child can open up to you.

Review Infrastructure – Try to partner with your child to see if they have places where they are able to interact and build relationships with kindred spirits – people who share their experiences. Don’t ban friends or virtual experiences, yet, everyone needs balance.  To connect and make friends, it helps to have shared experiences. This allows you to adapt, explore and build the relationship. Without banning virtual activities, see where your child or teen is spending too much time. Do your best to limit screen interaction and try to insert real, live people into their day. Some kids make plans easily but in a post Covid world, many kids may need help to reach out more.

If you can’t seem to get anywhere, consider going to school, coaches, siblings to gain intel.  Also, share your history to help your teen open up.

Should I Set up Mandatory Socialization?

This is tricky. The answer is yes and no – it depends. Nobody likes to be told what to do. If during an open, collaborative conversation, your child says, ” I would love it if you could help me, ” then this opens the door to your help.

Structure – If your teen is hiding out, playing video games, don’t make it socializing mandatory. Instead, look at the day’s structure. Discuss how much time should be devoted to hiding out. Pick something to join. If they are young, get them involved now. State that everyone in the family will pick an activity every semester.

Don’t Push Your Agenda – Rather than telling him your concerns, explore what he wants and what is in it for him.

Spend Time Connecting – Try to do something that interests your teen. This will allow you to have relaxed chats about what he finds fun, interesting and what he would like to join.

Your Child’s Social Skills Aren’t Where They Should Be

We don’t want to enter into endless talking when you know there is a real problem. The coaching tools in Why Will No One Play with Me? have go-to activities, scripts and advice you can implement right away.

  • Join a social skills group – A lot of teens won’t go to a group, but will go to an individual.
  • Engage a social skills coach
  • Rehearse and craft messages they can use on the fly
  • Ask open questions to help them understand their role in a friendship. Ask, ask, ask.
  • Follow step by step activities in Why Will No One Play with Me?
  • Practice conversations. Collaborate.
  • Look at social skills. They would if they could.

Deeper Dive:

How Transformation Happens

What to do When Your Teen Can’t Seem to Make Friends You Approve Of?

ADHD Parents’ Palooza –  July 26 – 28, 2021, designed to educate, guide, and inspire parents of kids with ADHD all over the world.

DO This At Home!

For scripts, tools, advice and actionable exercises on helping children develop social skills, check out Why Will No One Play with Me? and How to SEL

Social Emotional Challenges of Gifted / Learning Differences Children and Adults

It is common for people with learning differences to experience powerfulsocial emotional challenges of twice exceptional / giftedstrengths but also social emotional challenges.  Added social emotional challenges may affect gifted children with learning differences (also known as 2e or twice-exceptional i.e. they possess characteristics of both giftedness and learning differences ) because they are often confused and frustrated by the disconnect; how they can excel in certain areas and yet flounder in others.

This frustration can manifest in difficulties connecting to peers. Social skills and the ability to read social cues are often the culprit. Twice-exceptional (2e) people often struggle with perceptions of being different and feeling isolated.

Social skills come easily to some children: how to connect with peers, make conversation, join a group and read the room. For others, despite being gifted in some areas, they struggle to connect and are not sure how to make friends.  But this can all change. The more we work with our child, the better we can help them use their unique brain wiring to connect and thrive.

How to Address the Social Emotional Challenges of Gifted Children and Adults

In my book Why Will No One Play with Me? I emphasize the need to highlight strengths and interests in order to increase passion, self-esteem, cooperation and collaboration when addressing challenges.  I recommend that the whole-child be considered rather than specific weaknesses. This approach considers not only academics, but the also the social and emotional needs.

8 Strategies to Help Gifted / Learning Differences Children and Adults Socialize

1. Identify strengths and weaknesses – The better we understand who we are and where we excel and where we falter, the better able we are to prepare for our future. This self-understanding goes a long way toward building  self-acceptance.

2. Encouragement – Positive reinforcement goes a long way toward building confidence and a willingness to collaborate and excel. Keep the encouragement realistic by working together to set achievable goals, work within their limitations, and celebrate their genuine accomplishments.

3. Self-Regulation – Coping strategies to help ease frustration are critical to help overcome the desire to quit when tasks or situations become too challenging.

4. Counseling, if needed – Counseling, particularly in a group setting, may be beneficial, especially if the child or adult can speak with others who are experiencing the similar difficulties and frustrations.

5. Consider the Whole-Person – Remind yourself that twice-exceptional people are not just a label. They have individual needs and gifts. Encourage and positively reinforce their efforts, especially on challenging tasks.

6. Support the social and emotional needs – Provide support in establishing and maintaining social relationships by encouraging positive social interactions with peers. Increase opportunities to act in leadership roles, especially in areas in which they excel.

7. Emphasizing potential – Support students who are gifted with learning differences with future goals and career planning. Make sure that students are aware of their potential and do not sell themselves short.

8. Mentorship – Find another peer, either adult or child, who is also gifted and may have already walked this road or can provide the kind of heartfelt advice that your child needs. This relationship can lend advice, encouragement and a chance to compare and commiserate, especially in times of frustration.

Many who are twice-exceptional struggle with understanding and demonstrating the social skills needed to maintain positive peer relationships. To address this struggle, we must first acknowledge – and then help them to understand – their individual gifts and needs. This understanding will help them better prepare for their future.

By providing support that targets the whole person, we have the opportunity to tap the full potential of gifted people with learning disabilities.

Social Emotional Deeper Dive

SENG Conference – July 23-25 2021 – Supporting Emotional Needs of the Giftedsocial emotional needs of gifted LD

How to improve social skills in a child who is gifted / LD?

Do I need to teach my kid how to make friends? I never needed that kind of support, why does he?

Self Awareness in Social Emotional Learning (SEL)

DO This At Home!

For scripts, tools, advice and actionable exercises on helping children develop social skills, check out Why Will No One Play with Me? and How to SEL

How to Improve Social Skills in a Teen Who is Gifted or has Learning Differences

My Child is Lonely

Q: How can I improve social skills in a child who is gifted or has learning differences?

Gifted lonely childI try to help my child make new friends, but she will not listen. She clings onto friends who don’t treat her well. It is so difficult to watch – again – the same mistakes that ultimately leave her in pain! When I manage the courage to discuss it, she screams, “I AM Fine, Thank you Very Much!” or “I’m OK! I don’t want to talk about it!”  How can I improve social skills in my teen?

Unfortunately, everything is not “OK”

A: Social isolation is excruciating! You know that despite his claims that he has plenty of friends – he doesn’t have the kind of positive friendships we want for our kids.

Spontaneous social interactions have been disrupted

This loss of social engagement may have impacted your child’s ability to learn and practice social skills naturally. Asking her to “reach out” may seem like a simple suggestion, but she may resist due to all the steps and time required to coordinate the invitation. It may also be that she has a thin social network and fears rejection.

Those with the greatest needs – children and teens with ADHD or 2e – have fewer opportunities to socialize

Usually those with the greatest needs – children and teens with ADHD or 2e – lack the social skills, maturity, executive functioning skills and self-awareness to makes friends and therefore have fewer opportunities to socialize. This social isolation produces a more negative impact than in their neurotypical peers.

5 Ways to Help Your Child Manage Social Relationships:

  1. Evaluate friendships – Help your child evaluate what makes an attractive friend and which steps are required to make and keep friends. Don’t single out a friend. Instead help your tween or teen recognize the steps necessary to connect. This will allow her to examine friendships in general. After all, even if that one friend is removed from the equation, the problem still remains.
  2. Explore the value of friendships – Unless the friendship is a dangerous one, take a conversational approach by asking him about his friends without judgment or harsh restrictions. Ask open-ended questions, such as “What do you enjoy doing with your friend?” “What do you like about him or her?”  We want children to develop lifelong positive beliefs about how they should be treated and to choose positive friends who make positive choices.
  3. Empathize – Information is power, so regardless of what your child says, take a moment to breathe and listen. The larger goal is to gain your child’s trust, which is more important than any minor rule infraction. Help your child know that she can always feel comfortable coming to you, no matter what social problems she’s encountering, now or in the future.
  4. Don’t impose your goals – Ask and listen, don’t apply pressure nor assume you know the reasons for your child’s behavior. Getting your child to feel comfortable talking to you requires waiting, listening, and showing confidence that they have the capacity to learn and grow. If you try to push your agenda, you will likely get nowhere. By truly hearing your child’s perspective, you allow her to hold a mirror up to her views about friendship and evaluate them. This takes time, but it will have better results.
  5. Reflect, clarify and be curious – Paraphrasing what your child says and then repeating it back to him shows empathy and helps clarify your child’s concerns.  By summarizing and repeating his statements, you allow your child to clarify, share more information, and to tell his interpretation of the statement. This curiosity invites him to be comfortable opening up to you.

Good social skills are essential for effective communication, but they don’t come easily.

The good news is that social skills, just like other skills, can be developed.

First help your child identify the reasons why they want to improve, and then practice and practice.

Deeper Dive:

My Child Can’t Make Friends & Keep Them – What is Wrong With Her?

7 Ways to Help Your Kid’s Rusty Social Skills Now That the Pandemic Is Winding Down

2 Upcoming, Relatable Summits

SENG -July 23 -25, 2021 – Virtual conference for gifted, talented and 2e community!

ADHD Parents’ Palooza –  July 26 – 28, 2021, designed to educate, guide, and inspire parents of kids with ADHD all over the world.

DO This At Home!

For scripts, tools, advice and actionable exercises on helping children develop social skills, check out Why Will No One Play with Me? and How to SEL

The One Teacher That Made a Difference

Kids will have so many different teachers throughout their young academic years — all with different teaching styles and different ways they relate to each child. Some will be in their first years of teaching, while others approach retirement. Some will be great, some good, and some bad. But it’s that ONE teacher we will remember.. and sadly, they probably don’t even known it.

If Your Child or Teen has Learning Differences, the Teacher Can Really Matter

A teacher can single-handedly change how a kid feels about school. They can give your unique learner a chance to believe in themselves, which will help them build confidence and the drive to keep trying. It’s really just having someone in their court that’s willing to push through the tough times to prove there are brighter days ahead.

Keep in mind, there are years when the teacher may not be a good fit or even a disaster. I remember those years too. I remember the teachers who did not get me, but it was the few who did who made all the difference.

My journey as I look back

In the fall of my senior year of high school, I was in French 5. Let me tell you, it was not pretty. As a dyslexic, I could never remember to put accents in the right place and my spelling was — well pretty bad. This was the 1990’s, and I was told that despite my good grades that if I opted out of foreign languages, I would not get into the college of my choice. How could one French class keep me from my dream school? I thought I was doomed. I may not have been a great speller, but by the time I got to high school, I had learned not to give up! I went to my teacher, Madame Ruggles, and told her — I had to get a B — according to my college counselor.

The Teacher Who Made the Difference in My Life

Without batting an eye, Madame Ruggles began to meet with me every day during school. She knew I was trying so hard, but my results did not turn out the way I had hoped. I still have dreams that I fail every test and do not get that B because it was such an uphill battle.

I had this sense that she was pulling for me. Madame, like so many language teachers, insisted we speak “en Français”. That was all right with me because it was the writing that I found so difficult. So over time, I was able to show what I knew by speaking the answers as opposed to writing them. It was a struggle, but I got my B — and then promptly dropped French in college. I struggled partly to be like everyone else. I think Madame knew I was in fact not like everyone else. And she seemed to convey in a few words that this too would pass and that in life I would be able to use my talents not my weaknesses.

I recently found out that Madame Ruggles passed away. After retirements, she had moved to my town. So all this time, if I had only known, I could have gone to visit her. If I had, I would have said, “Madame, merci”.

Parents are often frustrated by many of the negative academic experiences their child has, and I completely understand. But remember, it is the few teachers who really believe in us — who help the unique learner like me reach our destination, and those are the one that will be remembered forever.

DO This At Home!

For scripts, tools, advice and actionable exercises on helping children develop social skills, check out Why Will No One Play with Me? and How to SEL

My Child is Hiding From Friends

Q: “My daughter seems to be sad and anxious. She is missing the bus on purpose, claiming to be ill and even asking to be homeschooled. I think she may be hiding from friends. But when I ask her she says she is fine. What do I do?”
A: I have heard this from many parents. This is an unfortunate fallout from the pandemic. Not everyone is excited to return to “normal”. Shy kids before the pandemic may have sunk further into their own bubbles.

How to Work with Your Child to Find Out What is Really Going On

  • Stay in the Conversation
    hiding from friendsIt’s easy to be rebuffed by your child and then give up. By surrendering the conversation, you are leaving your child without critical guidance. Start by finding a consistent time or a positive place to talk. Break up the routine. Spend time with your child one-on-one without siblings, and give your child the space to hear that you care and that you are worried. The time together will help your child feel comfortable opening up to you.
  • Empathize
    Information is power. Often as parents, it is difficult not to react to what your child says. We’ve all launched right into blame, punishment, advice and, then the, “I told you so.” No matter what your child says — he skipped school, is avoiding lunch, or he broke the coffee table — let go of the desire to jump in and react. Take a moment to breathe, and then, listen. The larger goal is to gain your child’s trust and is more important than any minor rule infraction. Taking a moment to step back will help your child know that he can always feel comfortable coming to you.
  • Reflect, Clarify and be Curious
    Paraphrasing what your child says and then repeating it back to him, shows empathy and helps you clarify your child’s concerns. For example, he might declare that he believes that, “people should invite me to play—I shouldn’t have to approach them.” “Reflect” this statement back to him — “What I hear you are saying is that you won’t approach anyone; they must come to you.” By summarizing and repeating his statements, you allow your child to clarify, share more information, and to tell his interpretation of the statement. By being curious and trying to understand his perspective you invite him to be comfortable opening up to you.
  • Don’t Impose Your Goals 
    Ask your child questions and listen. Do not assume you know the reasons for your child’s behavior. Do not apply pressure and impose your own goals and agenda on the situation. Getting your child to feel comfortable talking to you is about hearing and waiting and showing confidence that your child has the capacity to learn and grow.
  • Partner and Problem Solve
    Like any of us, children share more when they feel heard and understood. They can put their guard down, engage more readily in the coaching process, commit to developing their social skills, and invest in their success. When you allow for more of a two-way conversation, your child will be more comfortable opening up. Having a calm, open conversation in the heat of the moment allows your child to know that in the future, he can count on you as a partner rather than a judge.

Want Less Stress with Your Socially Challenged Teen? Learn To See the Little Wins

Help your Socially Challenged Teen

As parents of a socially challenged teen, we often look for big change and big wins. We want to hear that our teenager is “getting it” and that they are really willing to change, however, to help your socially challenged teen, recognize and appreciate that change happens with little wins, little shifts and small successes. The road to change is not paved with momentous events as in a hallmark movie and waiting for these events will only result in disappointment.  For example, if your teen is working on flexibility, they might not display frequent, regular flexibility.  Instead, they might adopt small wins around flexibility, such as changing where they sit. If they do it 3 times – it’s a small win!

For the Teen Who has Social Skills Challenges, Encouragement is the Key

Socially Challenged TeenHelp your socially challenged teen by noting and celebrating milestones or small wins. For example, when your teen overcomes their fear and invites a friend over, you can say, “You put yourself on the field, you caught the ball, you tried harder at something that’s hard for you. Those are three things to celebrate.”

To help you empathize with your teen, recall something that was hard for you. How hard was it to make progress and earn small wins? How about when only one wall was painted and there were three more to finish. Or when you started running and a half mile was so painful but eventually you worked up to a mile, then two then three?

Being a teenager is so hard, and part of that journey is learning how to communicate, self-advocate, and get along with people. This is no simple task.  The more we see the little wins, the more likely we will hit the big ones.

5 Social Behaviors That Indicate Small Wins:

  1. Nodding or a Shrugging

When your teen hesitates to respond or if you are broaching a tough topic, they may simply shrug or nod. Recognize that a shrug is actually an answer and that they are communicating with you. Being tongue tied or not being able to express thoughts via words can make parents think our teen does not hear us or is ignoring us. Don’t forget to look for the small wins and be sure to keep communication open – the better we partner, the more our child will want to communicate with us.

Looking for help on how to broach tough topics? Check out my video, Starting the Coaching Conversation

  1. Recognizing Social Cues

As your child’s coach, your goal is to help your child understand the unspoken rules of social behavior, learn how to watch for cues from other people, and work on adjusting their behavior. When you ask and listen to your teen, you learn about their experiences. Cheer the small successes as the stepping stones to bigger ones. Work with your child to develop the game plan – the playbook – and the overarching goal: for your child to make friends more easily and “go along and get along” with others.

  1. Self-Discovery

An aha is simply a moment of self-discovery. We’ve all had epiphanies in our lives. No one can have an aha for someone else; it’s an inside job. Recognize that every aha is progress – a small win. Their aha will look different than your aha, and that is OK. Don’t correct or lecture them on how they should be because this will shut down the conversation, their process of reflection, and the opening for the next aha.

Even the smallest aha is a bold expression of your teen’s  executive function bringing a picture into focus. Executive function connects the dots, and every aha is a dot in the picture. Whether your child is five years old or fifteen, she’s going to have these realizations when she’s ready, developmentally and emotionally. Coaching isn’t about ordering up the aha or telling your child what it should be. Coaching creates the space and time for her to discover this insight herself, which is the most powerful source of learning a child can have.

  1. Trying

Very few people if any move from trying to full on change. There are stages of change and the first starts with the awareness of one’s role and struggles in the social world. This awareness and noticing her own behavior. So if your child begins to express greater self awareness and seems willing to change- that is a win !!

  1. Practice

When we talk about the social behaviors that everyone needs to have, we’re referring to more than isolated performances of a skill. We’re talking about habits of “being”. In The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business, author Charles Duhigg suggests that a habit takes 18 to 254 days or an average of 66 days to develop.

Science tells us that the longer we hold on to perceptions and habits of thought, the more deeply imbedded they become. The brain’s circuitry— the networks of neurons and the paths they create—becomes stronger with use and weaker with less use. The brain actively prunes away the lesser used connections in favor of the more heavily used ones. In this way, your child’s story about his behavior becomes the self-talk, the inner voice that encourages or discourages him. Studies also show that in the brain, negative self- perception intensifies our reaction to negative thoughts and experiences and weakens the impact of positive ones. That’s how self-talk becomes a self- fulfilling prophecy: I just don’t fit in. I’m too stupid. I don’t . . . I’m not . . . I’ ll never. It becomes harder and harder to dig out of that self-talk rut and the behaviors that only dig the rut deeper.

For that reason, the sooner we address these stories that hold children back, the less entrenched those narratives are and the sooner we can help our kids change the story and the self-talk. Step-by-step, with incremental successes—small wins—your child builds the skills and strengthens the brain’s circuitry for positive social behavior.

Work with your teen to practice making chit chat, reaching out to others, making eye contact, holding back in a group chat or trying new things, takes time to become a habit. Partner with your teen to help him develop socially. Don’t pressure or rush the learning process. Most of all, show confidence in your child’s capacity to learn and grow.

Deeper Dive

Video: Starting the Coaching Conversation

Are you looking for help on how to broach tough topics? This video is a real-world conversation so parents can hear what a coaching conversation sounds like and how the conversation brings to light the child’s realizations and also helps the parent understand their perspective and the stories that get in the way of the child moving forward. As featured in Why Will No One Play With Me? these stories are essential for your child to address in order to understand the social world and move forward.

DO This At Home!

For scripts, tools, advice and actionable exercises on helping children develop social skills, check out Why Will No One Play with Me? and How to SEL

Is Your Kid A Hot Mess? 10 Ways to Help Keep Their Emotions In Check So You Get A Little Peace

As we turn the corner from the height of the pandemic and into summer, many parents are struggling with concerns about their child’s emotional state. Carrying a 500 pound backpack, seeing people they had forgotten, realizing new relationships have formed during hybrid or shut down schooling or even just trying to use social skills they have not used in a while can be tough. Not to mention all the struggles that go into childhood and being a teenager.  As you hear the stories of other kids who seemed to have climb Mount Everest during the pandemic while getting straight A’s, you might feel very alone. But fear not, many kids are a mess right now. And your kid struggling does not mean she will struggle forever.

Your kid is a hot mess right now.

At the end of this school year, so many kids and teenagers are bombarded with demands and the feeling of FOMO (fear of missing out). If your kid seems unmotivated, it’s because they probably are. Perhaps some students have surfaced energized, but for the majority, going back to school is about connecting again. Low energy combined with stress may create an environment where they come home snarky and grumpy. Don’t despair, they might just need a little support to guide them out of this “Hot Mess”.

10 Strategies to Keep Kids’ Emotions in Check:

  1. Truly Listen – Ask and listen. Don’t apply pressure nor assume you know the reasons for your child’s behavior. Don’t jump in with advice. Imagine a world in which your boss or partner constantly told you “the reason you are a mess is because you don’t plan ahead.” It would not be well received. Getting your child to feel comfortable talking to you requires waiting, listening, and showing confidence that they have the capacity to learn and grow. If you push your agenda, you will likely get nowhere. By truly hearing your child’s perspective, you allow her to hold a mirror up to her views about friendship and to evaluate them. This takes time, but it will deliver better results.
  2. Give your kid space- Everything does not have to be solved in the moment. Allow your teen to walk away. If they won’t take the time and space to use strategies to manage their emotions, then you will need to breath deeply and give yourself space.
  3. Don’t interrogate- Reflect, clarify and be curious – but don’t interrogate. Make the conversations short and allow them to answer one or two questions. Paraphrasing what your child says and then repeating it back to him shows empathy and helps clarify your child’s concerns. For example, she might declare, “You always want so much from me and you don’t get how hard school is now.” Reflect back: “What I hear you saying is school is much harder than when I went and you feel like everyone wants so much from you.” By summarizing and repeating his statements, you allow your child to clarify, share more information, and to tell his interpretation of the statement. This curiosity invites him to be comfortable opening up to you.
  4. Check in on sleep, nutrition- and other factors that contribute to the meltdown. No one does as well when they can’t sleep.
  5. Create a plan to help for when they are stressed– In the heat of the moment or when your teenager is in fight, flight or freeze mode, it’s very hard for them to problem solve. Don’t judge them when they are in this aroused state. Reflect back your child’s emotional state by saying, “I notice you’re stressed right now.” When they are in a more relaxed state, work with them to create a routine and strategies they can enact to manage their heightened emotions.
  6. Don’t offer advice, offer help– You probably recognize the cycles that lead your teen to become stressed such as searching for shoes and lunch just before the bus comes. You probably also recognize that your advice is rejected. My advice is to help find the shoes during the moments of panic and when your kid is calm, broach solutions. Start by saying, “I notice this time of year is hard and you seem stressed, what can I do to help? How can we could work together to help you feel better and get some things running smoothly?”
  7. Sneak calming strategies – Calming strategies are often rejected by kids, especially older kids. But they may incorporate your strategies if they are not too obvious. Warm blankets, a zen time to think and listen to music, low lights, soothing voices, etc. help distract the thalamus can be built into the fabric of life. No one needs to hear, “Boy, you are a hot mess – use my strategies.”
  8. Support them having time and space to reduce stress- When you notice that your child is anxious or spiraling, support their desire to go for a run or listen to music by washing their clothes or packing their soccer bag. Help them manage their emotions rather than continuing the spiral of tears, meltdowns and drama.
  9. Create a Pattern Interrupt– Use action-oriented emotional coping strategies in class and at home with children of any age. A pattern interrupt can shift the cycle rather than allowing your kid to spin into distress. Doing jumping jacks, shaking arms, dancing, running around the room, walking up and down the stairs, getting into nature, and touching toes help shift the internal chemistry to allow for us to manage emotions. Exercise has been shown to reduce cortisol and adrenaline levels and to increase dopamine levels and release endorphins.
  10. Name it to Tame it– Prompt your kid to pinpoint their emotions and check in with themselves. Ask her to determine how intense these emotions feel, and then have a plan and pick strategies ahead of time to use when her reaction has reached a 7, 8, 9 or 10. Stop the runaway cycle early and regain control so the thinking brain can resume.

Be sure to set reasonable expectations: don’t push too much fun over school work or visa versa. Balance is the key as we return to in person society. More importantly than academic success, your support will help you kid feel safe, comfortable and secure – the key ingredients to a happy future.

DO This At Home!

For scripts, tools, advice and actionable exercises on helping children develop social skills, check out Why Will No One Play with Me? and How to SEL

Deeper Dive

7 Ways to Help Your Kid’s Rusty Social Skills Now That the Pandemic Is Winding Down

Empathy During COVID

Why We Need Social Emotional Learning Now More Than Ever

The Importance of Character, Integrity and Happiness

With the hope vaccines bring, we must now pull ourselves out from our cozy nests, pods and intimate social bubbles. We need to not only make new friends but also to repair what has been damaged during the pandemic.

Most of us agree that it is more important for a child to develop good character, integrity, and find happiness than it is to get good grades, a good job, or to be accepted into a good college.

Teachers agree and hold themselves accountable to guiding students to build confidence, help others and apply classroom learning outside the school. But parents need education and support to know how – how to help children learn social emotional skills.

Social Emotional LearningConnecting School to the Real World

Students themselves want more social-emotional and service-learning opportunities in school. In a survey of students* who chose to drop out of school, the leading reason was that they did not see the relevance of school to real life.

Parents, teachers, and students are seeking opportunities to link learning to life. If anything has been learned from the pandemic it is that schools and homes need to prioritize such efforts. The next generation of parents and leaders must create a learning structure that includes knowledge, empathy, resilience, appreciation of diversity, and civic dispositions to innovate through times of crisis.

Social Emotional Learning Today in Schools

Fewer than 1 in 4 teachers report SEL is implemented in their school.  The path forward is clear, states need SEL implementation on a programmatic, schoolwide and districtwide basis. In addition, both SEL and service learning must be integrated into workforce development systems in order to match our students to employers needs.

Now is The Time for Reflection and Resetting

The pandemic has changed the way we see the world, now and in the future. Our children will be dictating how society, economy and democracy evolves. The skills that are built today will be the ones employed and taught to the following generation.

How To SEL provides the resources for full district-wide SEL implementation.

Social Emotional Learning

Dive Deeper:

Read more about social skills

How to really understand what’s going on in social settings

7 Ways to Help Your Kid’s Rusty Social Skills Now That the Pandemic Is Winding Down

The Impact of COVID on Social Emotional Skills

Rusty Social SkillsNo one can dismiss the impact rusty social skills has had on all of us, especially our children. Calling it a missed year is an understatement. How can we expect our child to assimilate into hybrid or in-person learning when they haven’t been practicing their social skills?

What about the child who was shy, introverted or lonely before COVID? Will life be better or worse for them?  One year of over-indulgence in screens and rusty social skills and now we are to sit back and expect life to be great for them?

Social and Emotional Needs Must be Addressed

Of course academics are critical. Yet we shortchange our children when we discount the importance of social connection. The American Academy of Pediatrics stated that kids need to return to in-person school this fall. They recognize the seriousness of COVID and the importance of physical safety, yet, they also recognized the essential value of emotional safety when evaluating overall school safety. Relationship with peers and adults are invaluable especially for preschool-age children who are learning how to share and play with other kids. Kids get a lot of value out of their personal interactions with other kids and it’s a key part of growing up at every age level.

7 Ways to Help Your Kid’s Rusty Social Skills Over the Summer

As with any other skill, if not practiced and used, social skills become rusty. Younger children need to play to build reciprocal relationships and teens need to “chill” together. Being with peers, trying things out, practicing, adapting and trying again is a key aspect of social learning.

  1. Play games – Games are an incredibly useful and easy way to teach academic skills as well as social development opportunities. For younger children, model taking turns and how to handle losing. For older children, help them consider the feelings of others and talk about how to pick out a game someone else might like to play.
  2. Go on a hike –Help children explore their inner thinking while exploring the outdoors. What do they hear? Taking the time to truly listen will improve their ability to pause and hear what others say. Build empathy skills by discussing their thoughts and feelings. Why are they feeling that way? What can they do to make it better?
  3. Reconnect with friends before school – Many kids will have gotten both vaccines, so enjoying time with friends will be easier. A few playdates with friends your child knows, socially-distanced if required, will provide comfort to an anxious child.
  4. Read a book together – Find a book about a social dilemma and discuss the story together. Why was the main character angry, or sad? What happened that made that character react in a bad way?
  5. Create a back-to-school plan with your child – If Uncertainty can lead to anxiety. Prepare your child before the return to school on the expectations of masks, social distancing, lunch, recess etc might look like. Depending on the age of your child, a big change can cause some anxiety that they may not know how to manage. Ask them what their concerns are and what they are most looking forward to when the new school year begins.
  6. Create a visual calendar. Help your child understand when he will be returning to school. Create a calendar with photos from last year showing the fun he had with teachers and classmates. Maybe there was a field trip or class party picture you can include to show how much fun was had at school.
  7. Empathize and validate feelings before trying to fix them. It is so important for our children feel like they are being heard. There is a lot of pressure on them right now—the need to keep up with academics, fit in socially, and some may be even be working through their feelings and fear of losing a family member to COVID. Your child may not know they best way to express their worries. If she shows resistance to returning to school, acknowledge and empathize with her feelings before jumping in to reassure him that everything will be fine.

Social Interactions are Critical at All Ages of Development.

After a year of remote learning and limited engagements for our children, they are struggling. Taking part in just a few activities a week can really support their social growth and get them feeling more comfortable, and socially ready to join the classroom in-person this fall.

DO This At Home!

For scripts, tools, advice and actionable exercises on helping children develop social skills, check out Why Will No One Play with Me? and How to SEL

Deeper Dive:

How to Transition Back to Social Environments

Sensitive Due to COVID?

Introducing “How To SEL” – Everyday Child and Family Social Emotional Coaching

Joint Venture By leading SEL experts Caroline Maguire, M. Ed., and Scarlett Lewis

Social Emotional LearningNewtown, CT (April 12, 2021) – The Choose Love Movement, a non-profit SEL organization, in partnership with Caroline Maguire, parenting and SEL expert, announced today the release of How To SEL, an innovative essential life skills coaching subscription designed to make social emotional learning (SEL) skills easy to learn and implement for everyone, every day.

How To SEL, released in time to help address the very real possibility of a secondary social emotional trauma wave, offers desperately-needed SEL support to both children and adults who have been impacted by the pandemic and increased racial inequity. With an affordable entry point at $19.99 a month, this professionally-developed ‘how-to’ instructional video coaching, with engaging activities, and a live monthly Q&A with SEL experts, is intentionally designed to be accessible to all. All proceeds benefit Choose Love For Schools, a free SEL program for educators.

Harvard University researchers have found that about two-thirds of children ages 7 to 15 had clinically significant symptoms of anxiety and depression, and the same number had behavioral problems such as hyperactivity and inattention, between November 2020 and January 2021. That is a huge jump from the 30% with anxiety and depression symptoms and the 20% with behavioral problems before the pandemic. *

Parents, caregivers, professionals and community advocates can learn how to easily incorporate SEL strategies into their daily lives at home, school, or even in the community. This one-of-a-kind coaching series delivers engaging professional coaching techniques with demonstrations of actual scenarios with children that anyone can quickly pick up and use in real life situations. Each month will feature a carefully-curated life skills theme and include a variety of different formats to accommodate different learning preferences and resources to reinforce the lessons.

Social Emotional LearningEach How To SEL monthly offering shares one mission – to teach HOW TO empower the whole child. Parents and teachers can now explain – and demonstrate – in a way that enables children to understand what is happening in their bodies and minds. Children will learn how to develop and nurture friendships, engage in successful social interactions, and build self-control, empathy and sound decision-making skills.

Everyone who subscribes will receive a welcome kit containing two books – Why Will No One Play with Me? by Caroline Maguire, and Nurturing Healing Love by Scarlett Lewis – plus a Choose Love journal, a Spy Kit, and an assortment of merchandise for kids that coincide with the lessons.

Additionally, subscribers receive a personalized online dashboard to access Caroline’s demonstration videos, a LIVE monthly Q&A where subscribers can interact with Caroline and Scarlett, plus additional resources for further topic exploration.

Annual subscribers will receive a monthly pre-recorded master class with Scarlett Lewis plus leading health and wellness experts that focus on a parent or teacher’s mental health needs.

“Coping with your emotions is an essential life skill, and we created a go-to resource that empowers every parent to cultivate this skill in their children on a daily basis,” said Maguire, co-founder of How To SEL, parenting expert and author.

“Parents were always asking HOW to model and teach social and emotional character development to kids. We wanted to create an easy way for them to learn these transformative skills and strategies with others in their life, and be strengthened by them as well,” added Lewis, co-founder of How To SEL and the Jesse Lewis Choose Love Movement.

Social emotional learning skills are a critical component of a fulfilling life. The benefits of SEL include greater success in school and stronger relationship bonds to peers, partners, and colleagues. SEL is proven to create increased happiness, self-esteem, and empathy; better academic performance; lower anxiety and depression; and improved immune systems.

All proceeds from How To SEL will benefit the Choose Love Movement to help fulfill its mission to provide free SEL programs to schools, homes and communities.

For more information, please visit

*WSJ 4/9/21


About Caroline Maguire, M.Ed., ACCG, PCC

Caroline earned her undergraduate degree at Trinity College and her Masters of Education and Early Childhood Development with a specialization in social emotional learning (SEL) at Lesley University. Caroline is the author of the award winning book, Why Will No One Play With Me?, a playbook of foolproof scripts on social skills development.

She is the founder of a comprehensive Social Emotional Learning (SEL) training methodology for adults, parents, clinicians and academic professionals on how to cultivate emotional regulation, emotional intelligence, social-awareness and responsible decision-making skills. She is the founder and director of The Fundamentals of ADHD Coaching for Families training curriculum at ADD Coach Academy (ADDCA) – the only Coach Training program accredited by the International Coach Federation (ICF).

After several years as a highly respected social skills clinician at the Hallowell Center Boston MetroWest, Ms. Maguire formed her own private practice. She is a sought-after lecturer and workshop facilitator on various topics related to social, emotional and behavioral learning. She is a permanent columnist on social skills in ATTitude Magazine, a favored contributor to U.S. News & World Report, Mind Body Green, Salon, Huffington Post, Today Parenting, ADDitude, Attention Magazine and WebMD. Follow her @AuthorCarolineM.


About The Jesse Lewis Choose Love Movement

Jesse Lewis, a six-year-old first grader, was a victim of the Sandy Hook tragedy whose action saved the lives of nine classmates. Jesse left behind a message on a household chalkboard, “Nurturing Healing Love,” that became the inspiration for his mother, Scarlett, to found the Jesse Lewis Choose Love Movement.

The Jesse Lewis Choose Love Movement is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization with a commitment to reach students, educators, and individuals, nationally and internationally, and provide them with a simple, yet profound formula for choosing love. The Choose Love Programs are comprehensive, no cost, lifespan, next-generation social and emotional learning and character development programs. They teach children and adults how to choose love in any circumstance and help them become connected, resilient, and empowered individuals. These skills, tools, and attitudes have been proven through decades of scientific research to be the best way to ensure a healthy, meaningful, and purpose-filled life.

Its signature program, Choose Love For Schools™, is a no-cost infant/toddler through 12th grade curriculum that contains the simple universal teachings of courage, gratitude, forgiveness, and compassion-in-action – the foundational concepts of Social and Emotional Learning (SEL). Choose Love For Home™, Choose Love For Communities™, and Choose Love For Athletics™ are also available.

For more information, please visit Also visit on Facebook, Twitter or YouTube.


Jan Wilmot
Director of Marketing and PR
Jesse Lewis Choose Love Movement
jan @




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