Build Social Emotional Skills Over the Holiday

The holidays are a very social time. This can be a good thing; and a not so good thing. Plan now to teach your child these social emotional skills exercises during the holidays.

Common Holiday Social Skills Dilemmas

Social Emotional Learning
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Are you trying to avoid last year’s social challenges? Do you wish your teenager would chat easily with your uncle and not ignore everyone to text friends? Did your daughter’s clothing and comments raise eyebrows? Do you fear your son’s look of irritation or his sharp tone will make you cringe again? Were you told your kids played too rough with the cousins?

Plan for Now to Build Social Emotional Skills

The holidays are a perfect time to practice your child social emotional skills. Use this time to work on one specific mission. Probably what causes your child the most angst is also an area of concern for you. Talk openly about this with your child. Jointly decide on one social emotional skill that will build communication and relationship skills to last a lifetime.

social emotional learningWhere ever you go (or don’t go as the case may be) – you will interact with people. Use every opportunity at the mall, holiday parties virtually with friends and family, to standing in line at the grocery store – use the daily life of a parent managing the holiday grind to your advantage.

Are you ready to coach?

This year can be different. Not only are we in unprecedented times, but our social gatherings are more likely to be online than in person. That is OK. It is what it is this year – so let’s make the best of it.

This whole journey starts with you coaching your child. Some kids make friends easily and know how to navigate any social event. Other kids do not. As a parent you are the perfect person to work with your child. You know his struggles. You are her original teacher and are with her day in and day out.

5 Social Skills Exercises to Build Self-Awareness

  1. Help Your Child Become a social spy – Self-awareness is one of the core concepts in CASEL’s Social Emotional Learning framework. In this exercise, you will rehearse in advance what specific social information searching for. It is important for her to understand that she is to listen unobtrusively, to watch other people in a subtle, covert way without looking like she is listening. Have her report back on non-physical traits such as energy, behavior and mood. For physical traits, how about identifying how her peers are wearing their clothing and hair. What do they talk about at lunch? This information can then be used to assess her own traits in order to build self-awareness skills. Read more about Self-Awareness.
  2. Reading the Mood – This can work particularly well with online chats. In advance, identify which family members to observe in order to work on social emotional skills. How does their body language and intonation reflect what they are saying? What do they do to demonstrate their mood? Are they more positive than others? How do thy make you feel. Compare notes later and discuss how each of you would fare in this observation?
  3. Become a better Noticer – In advance of the call, have your child take mental note of grandma’s earrings, hair and clothing. Is there something new or something you like? What did you say that made her particularly happy? Discuss how he can build his communication skills by using this data when engaging in conversation.
  4. Teach your child to engage in a “polite pretend”- The ability to fake interest or happiness and to be polite even when your child is hungry, tired or bored is what I call a polite pretend. Begin by asking him some open-ended questions, what do you think your friend felt about your behavior? How do other people feel about how you treated them? What behavior does the situation call for? This will help your child think about his actions and why performing a polite pretend may be necessary rather than hurting other people’s feelings.
  5. Build a Conversationtaking a conversation from “hi” to a full-fledged conversation is hard for some children and teens but it is a life skill. Model how you use the data you both identified to engage someone. You can comment on her jewelry or clothing to start. Encourage your child to agree with you by nodding if talking is too difficult. The goal is to begin talking to people she doesn’t know well by noting how she talks to people she does know well

 Self-Awareness is at the Root of Belonging

Make a game of this exercise. It can be your own “little secret” and will not only help your child develop critical social skills, but also build your connection.

Deeper Dive:

Self-Management Skills Required this Holiday

5 Ways to Use Social Emotional Learning to Bring Back Joy

Do you worry about your child?

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You are not alone. The pandemic has hit all of us hard in so many ways: financially, medically, academically, and socially. Social emotional concerns are at an all-time high. Parents share their struggles and concerns with me. My heart breaks for these kids – and this includes my own two children.

“Where is the fun?!” “How can this still be going on?” “Why can’t someone fix it?”

Add to the pandemic the chaos of an armed insurrection that occurred at the US Capitol. We, parents, are confused and feel helpless. Wouldn’t you gladly “fix” this if at all humanly possible?

I am here to tell you that there are things you can do as a parent to create joy and help your child or teen stay socially and emotionally centered.

5 Ways to Use Social Emotional Learning to Bring Back Joy and Civility 

  1. Walk in Their Shoes – Your child or teen needs you more than ever – even if she doesn’t show it. The world has become big and unrecognizable, and without the life experience you have, it can be scary. Social emotional concerns are at an all time high. You have no idea where we are headed either, but your steady presence can help keep his social emotional boat from tipping. Take a moment to put yourself in his shoes. It really is a tough time. Whatever means you use – meditation, deep breathing, exercise, hiding in a bathroom – try to get your emotions in check. This balance will enable you to manager your own emotions and allow you to truly empathize with your child or teen.
  2. Choose an Activity for Each Day – What activities can he do each day of the month? Rather than saying, “Hey, why don’t you create those videos you have always wanted to make,” say, “Why don’t we sit down and draft some quirky topics you can make videos of?” If a new topic is thought of every day, this will help your child stay focused and interested when they are feeling down. If you son loves tennis, maybe he (gently) hits a ball against the wall one day. The next day, he can do so with his backhand. Craft stores are a great way to bring out the creative right brain in all kids. The point here is to build on strengths, develop new interests, and strengthen relationships.
  3. Monitor and Adapt Tone and Banter – Everyone is at their worse when tired, sad, angry and lonely. Remembering this will help when one family member acts out. Come up with a word or phrase that everyone recognizes as the “code” for returning to civility. The whole family should try to be more considerate. Be sure to share with your children what respectful looks like and admit it when you struggle. In a non-shaming way, say the “code” when tempers flare, tone becomes disrespectful and actions are rude. Eventually, you will catch it before you will need to be told.
  4. Tap into Interests and Strengths – It can be easy to get caught in a stage of moping, but this is not a good place to rest. Together, when both of you are in a loving and receptive mood, brainstorms ways to tap into both of your strengths and interests. You both may have more time on your hands than ever before, so make a pact not to squander it. Be each other’s mentors and remind each other what you each like and where you can find joy. Maybe you both will actually come out of the pandemic with a new or renewed passion.
  5. Stay Centered – I know you miss your friends and former activities too. You don’t have to put on a “brave face” and insist all is OK in the world. As parents we are our children’s social and emotional coping models. It is OK, to share your disappointment, you are human too. Together you can come up with ways that will raise every member of the family’s spirits.  Think of it this way – 2021 is “The Year” to break old, stodgy rules.

The pandemic is tough – on every member of the family. Sharing together ways to overcome the struggle will nurture bonds that will hopefully bring up nice memories down the road on how you all pulled through in one of the worse periods in history.

Deeper Dive:

Encourage Social Skills Development

The Silver Lining: Empathy and Kindness

5 Ways Kids & Teens Can Take Back Joy During COVID-19 (& You Too!)

5 Ways Kids & Teens Can Take Back Joy During COVID-19

5 Ways to Find Joy

It’s six months into the pandemic, and your child is feeling the effects. Social distancing, virtual school, the loss of sports, chorus, and connections to friends are overwhelming your child or teen. His energy level is down. She hardly sees friends. All of their “free” time (which is quite a lot lately) is on screens. And most places are likely entering another phase of the COVID-19 lockdown, similar to last March. They’re likely in need of a few ways to find joy—maybe you are too!—so here, my tips to help take back your happiness.

Joy is hard to come by lately. Wouldn’t it be great to order a big box of it on Prime? With so much out of our control, don’t get discouraged. There are things you can do as a parent to create joy and help your child or teen stay centered:

Read more in MindBodyGreen

Social Withdrawal Concerns

“I don’t want to go out” or “No, You can’t see your friends” can be a sign that you are socially withdrawing out of more than just an abundance of precaution. You may be self-isolating out of fear.

Even before COVID19 and social distancing, many of the children and adults I hear from and work with struggled with loneliness and with real intimacy and connection.

Are You Self-Isolating Out of Fear?

Do you find that even if you feel like connecting, that you stop yourself?

Do you decline invitations in person or virtually, eat and spend most of your day alone and find the thought of being social too daunting? If so, it is critical to figure out why. Many people trying to be safe and responsible or who have trouble connecting to begin with find it hard to reach out. How do I do this? What can I say? As time goes on it gets harder. And life becomes less about the joy that connection brings us as social animals and more about drudgery, duties, and tasks. My concern is that long term isolation can lead to depression, addiction, anxiety, mood swings, self-harm,  and that people want to hear from you. And if you struggle, then so many of us professionals, books and resources are here and want to help you. Connection and reaching out is hard right now. It’s easy to slip off our radar and for many it’s easier to stay in their cocoon. Reaching out to connect feels hard. (Please scroll below for suggested resources)

If you fear that you have lost the ability to engage in meaningful conversations with others or will be subjected to the virus every time you leave the house, it is important to face the fear. Fear is normal.  Take small steps, small bites to reach out, to join even a virtual gathering by video.

Humans are Social Creatures

Our human brains are wired for connection so social isolation can become a healthy hazzard. We rely on each other, exchange knowledge and share community. Socially isolating means you are cut off from Human C – What Dr. Hallowell calls, the Other Vitamin C – Human Connection. Lack of human connection removes you from the resources you need, and can land you in a fatigue that is hard to extract yourself from.

Signs of Social Withdrawal

  1. Not calling anyone or answering your phone
  2. Not engaging with others even when invited
  3. Staying indoors all day and night
  4. Justifying working from home as a reason to hide indoors
  5. Shooting quick texts and emails rather than having a live conversation
  6. Becoming critical or even angry at others’ beliefs, behaviors, sanitary measures, etc.
  7. Refusing to allow children or family members to socialize in-person
  8. Increased anger, depression, guilt, boredom

Healthy Social Suggestions:

  1. Don’t keep your thoughts inside. Discuss your concerns with a trusted family member, friend or professional
  2. Take a chance and start a conversation with someone new.
  3. Join a social app, Meetup, chat, etc. to share your thoughts and communicate with like-minded people
  4. Try to avoid the news or discussions that center solely around COVID-19
  5. Get outside! Look at the sky, breath fresh air, take a walk
  6. Practice meditation or yoga to develop deep thinking and focus
  7. Try to figure out why you are reclusive without judging

RESOURCES:

Connection is a Verb

Encourage Social Skills Development

Keep the Social in Social Distancing

Collaborating Virtually at Work and School

Working or learning virtually can be a challenge especially if reading social cues and managing your communication is a challenge.  We have the technology to create and support virtual teams, but collaborating remotely requires special skills.

These tips can help build social and communication skills in a virtual setting: 

  1. Consider who is Your Audience- Think about what you know about the people in each meeting or interactions, what motivates them? What is their history with you? What are their past choices and what does that tell you about how they will react to a situation? Then if need be, pause as you adapt your communication to the audience and consider the situation and their personality.
  2. Use Video Conferencing to Watch for Social Cues- Whenever possible, use a visual medium so you can see the other person’s nonverbal signals and interpret how they feel. Reading body language and facial expressions will help you gauge how to react to the other person, identify how they are feeling and tailor your communications more effectively. Body Language can change the meaning of a simple phrase, so watch the speaker for head nods (agreement), crossed arms (defensiveness), smirking (can mean they agree and are amused or disagree and are nodding politely), and a sigh (frustration).
  3. Read the energy of the other person- Energy tells you so much about another person’s mood. People’s voice, what they say, their body language can alert you to their energy. Consider the energy of the person you are speaking to and ask yourself what does this tell you about their mood? What does that mean about your conversation and how can you adapt your approach to match their energy? The pace of the person’s language can tell you so much about their energy.
  4. Pay Attention to Context- Context is the situation, the environment, the mood, the circumstances and what has been going on. Interpreting the context can help you adjust your message to the audience you are speaking to​ and to remember their thoughts and feelings and how that impacts the conversation.
  5. Read Between the Lines- As you communicate with co-workers and friends from a distance, the way something is said can change the meaning so it is important to read between the lines. Drawn out words change the meaning of a sentence, for instance, a stress on the adjective i.e., “that is SOO nice”, changes the meaning from positive to a negative, snarky comment. Intense verb adjectives and adverbs, such love, hate, and always can be signs of sarcasm.  Reading between the lines can help translate what the person means, allowing you to make a choice on how to respond.

Change can be overwhelming. Rather than worrying about everything at once, a good approach is to pick one mission, one thing to work on and then to focus on that goal.  What you focus on will grow and develop and will help you manage your social relationships virtually.

Top 10 Social Etiquette Faux-Pas During a Pandemic

We’re all figuring this out, yet some of us have adapted to the rules of Pandemic Protection faster and better than others. This is a weird new world, yet community and civility should not be tossed out with our disposable masks!

Some people wear masks driving alone in cars, while others claim they “don’t believe in them.” COVID is real, and its effects will last a long time. As a social skills coach, I see all types of behavior as we adjust to this mask-wearing, distancing new normal.

Here are my top observations of how to inadequately protect yourself and others.  Next time you brave a store trip or visit with a neighbor, see if you recognize yourself in these personnas.

Top 10 Etiquette Faux-Pas During a Pandemic:

  1. Bubble-Buster – These people speed up to you as if participants in The Amazing Race.  Simply turn if they are approaching and moving past you quickly, but if they are lingering, take the high road and move out of the way. When you are in a store, don’t approach someone else in the aisle, just move to the next aisle. When waiting in line, stay 6 feet apart and don’t encroach on others.
  2. Close Talker – They probably were close talkers as toddlers, but why can’t they just get it that you can’t do this now? A friendly, “do you need a mask?” will hopefully signal to them that they need to cover up their droplets. Should that not suffice, be sure to step back, turn your head and awkwardly adjust your mask in hopes they receive the message. If not, run.
  3. Squeezer – As if they have nothing better to do, these folks touch every melon in the grocery store! Please don’t pick up every can, bag and freezer item. You can’t pick things up to read labels right now. I don’t want to touch what you’ve just touched – who knows where you’ve been!
  4. Rule Police – Don’t yell out in the crowded produce area, “6 feet apart!” You didn’t make the rules, so don’t feel the need to enforce them. Let the signs and notices do that.
  5. Can’t be bothered – For heaven’s sake, just wear the mask in public! Have a mask at the ready to speak to someone at a drive up window or to say hello. Buy fresh masks and hand them to those who don’t have one. Yes, this may make them feel as if you are asserting your superiority, but in fact, you are the smart one!
  6. Confused – If you’re not sure of the appropriate etiquette, watch what others do and mirror it. Of course, with the caveat that you aren’t repeating these faux-pas!
  7. Hugger – “I’m a hugger and I can’t help it!” I hear you. I feel the same way, but please don’t hug or touch other people, even an elbow touch on an arm right now is jarring. Yes, it stinks, but it’s necessary.
  8. Pontificator – These guys expound on COVID details in excruciating detail. People are stressed, don’t start big lectures with every acquaintance. Some of us are trying to compartmentalize our fears so we can assume some form of normalcy.
  9. Hoarder – You heard of them, you may even know one or two. As if graduates of Defcon training, these sneaky people take all the toilet paper, wipes and sanitizers before the 2-limit rule was implemented. Don’t take all the supplies left on a shelf, your neighbors are watching and they will be angry because heck, they need toilet paper too!  And, it’s just plain not nice!
  10. Digital Non-native – These people don’t check their emails, rarely text and now are over-whelmed with virtual meetings. We get it, everything and everyone is online now, but please figure out how to join a Zoom meeting or provide a signature electronically. This is not going away.

There isn’t one person on the planet who wishes this pandemic was here to stay. I am tired of it. You are sick of it. And those who lost someone to it especially grieve. Let’s do the best we can to protect ourselves and others so this nightmare can be put to rest.

What Will the Fall Be Like?

Now is the time for parents to contemplate what fall will look like. None of us knows what to expect, but we can’t just adopt a wait-and-see attitude. Measures should be put into place this summer in preparation for a successful school year.

As a social skills coach, I suggest that parents review the social struggles that were most prevalent last year. Did your daughter make friends easily or did she eat alone at lunch? Now would be a good time to ask her if there were people she would like to get to know better. Are there clubs, sports, events etc. that interest her? Find out if enrollment is starting for the fall for the programs she likes. She can ask a friend to join, or do it alone with the plan of making new friends, maybe even from another town. Send a message to the guidance counselor or new teacher and explain her interest in making new friends. She isn’t the first to voice this concern.

If school work was an issue because of executive functioning challenges or attentional issues, reach out to the school administration and ask if you can turn things in differently, or later.

Video interactions are a great way to “play” with others, and older kids can go to the park, etc. with the understanding of distancing.

Now is also the time to create plans and infrastructure around the use of electronics as it is probable that remote learning will be here to stay.

Learn more about how to thrive during the pandemic

 

3 Tips to Building Empathy During a Social Crisis

COVID Resource – Are we becoming cruel and self-centered or just oblivious?

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Let’s face it, we are in a social crisis. Socially distancing is making us exhausted and LONELY. What’s more, on a whole, we are becoming “less nice. Bullying, cruelty and insensitivity may actually be on the rise as we shelter behind our screens. We all witness how cruelty and callousness divides a community – even if it is unintentional. Where we had seen a child burst into tears, or innately sense a rebuff, social distancing has taken away these vital, often non-verbal social exchanges.

Empathy is showing compassion, understanding another person’s experience, and walking in someone else’s shoes.  Empathetic children are less likely to bully others. The ability to show empathy is a life skill- if someone in your office does not receive a promotion you are expected to read the room and hold back your joy that you were promoted, if someone’s pet passes away you are expected to express sorrow- and when someone is in distress to ignore that distress does not win friends or make you a prospect for future management roles.

Environment, genetics, social and cultural factors influence our ability to feel empathy.

Some children due to their own brain-based challenges do not read social cues, facial expressions and emotions, they don’t have the perspective or the self-awareness to see how others interpret their actions and behaviors.  These children, for whatever reason, do not understand how they come across.  Their intentions are good, but they don’t really know how to tune in and “walk in the other person’s shoes.”

Teaching empathy must involve not only fostering a community to promote empathy and kindness but also coaching children individually to help guide them toward greater understanding of what kind and empathetic behavior looks like by modeling empathy and reinforcing it with all actions and messages children hear so they can learn to “walk in someone else’s shoes.”

3 Tips to Teach Empathy to Your Child

  • Point out emotions and bring attention at the right time to the emotional experience of others and have conversations with your child about another person’s experience. In the minivan or on the go, continue to ask him questions when his conversations present as forgetting other people’s feelings. For example, What do you think is going on in your friend’s life? What did you notice about her reaction to the situation?
  • Collaboratively talk about your child’s behavior when he is rude or lacks empathy and ask him to interpret how his behavior made you feel. Ask your child, How do you think I feel when you correct me? What did you mean to do?
  • Guide children to look at what another person’s situation or point of view may be – rather than preaching to care about someone, help your child step into the shoes of his peer and ask your child questions to help him reflect on other people’s state of mind. What do other people feel? What is the reaction to their behavior? What did the other people’s facial expressions tell them about their feelings?

Some children naturally begin to demonstrate empathy as early as 12 months old; others struggle for whatever reason and may demonstrate rude and hurtful behavior. But the ability to understand other people’s emotions and respond with kindness is a life skill essential to help children be part of any group throughout their lives.

Read more about empathy

Learn more about the oblivious kid in the 2020 Parenting Palooza

 

 

Virtual Playdates: Can They Really Help Build Social Skills?

Who knew playing at the playground, running on the soccer field or summer camp would be taken for granted?

Adults have an easier time staying connected to friends, but kids need to keep in touch just as much, if not more than we do.

There are many ways to keep your young one social and active with friends while on lockdown. They can continue to build on the social skills strategies that you’ve been building on over the last several months.

Ways to make virtual playdate a success

  1. Determine the social struggle – Ask yourself what your child tends to struggle with during play, such as joining in, sharing, managing emotions, becoming overly excited with a friend, being too bossy, or being too grumpy.
  2. Collaborate on the plan – Make it clear to your child that her mission for the virtual playdate is to practice that skill. For example, work on how your child talks with other children, review what you might say and what to do, role-play, and practice how a conversation might go if done virtually. Practice with family members first, and then when it comes time, help her join in with her friends.
  3. Pick the right playmate – Temperament of the playmate is important when practicing social behaviors.  A virtual environment can be more difficult than an in-person playdate, and to . Compatibility does not necessarily mean putting two like-minded children together. For example, two overly bossy, rule-oriented children might argue and a domineering child might overshadow a shy child.
  4. Choose the activities – Think about what games and activities might work well in a virtual environment in an effort to stay connected. Younger kids may not have the vocabulary or the ability to hold a long conversation, but interactive activities can be just the right mix of fun and entertainment.

Games and Activities for virtual playdates –

  • Scavenger hunt – once online,  agree on a list of things they can hunt for while on a daily walk with their parents or siblings. Right now, there are many neighborhoods putting rainbows, bears, and other creative items in their windows. Have them find and take a picture of someone’s sidewalk chalk art, hunt for a certain type of leaf or bug or count how many butterflies cross their path. The options are endless. When the hunt is over, the kids can regroup and compare notes on their next interactive virtual playdate.
  • HedBanz, Pictionary or Charades – These can easily be played virtually.
  • Storybooks – Younger kids can take turns reading to a friend. Kids can talk about characters, plot and why it’s a favorite.
  • Crafts – Set up your virtual playdate at the dining room table with supplies. Kids can talk and draw together. Have a show and tell at the end of the playdate.
  • Pen pals –  How fun would it be to stay connected by sending a friend a handwritten letter? Make it fun by including a drawing or adding one of your favorite stickers to share.

Debriefs are important

Children learn by reflecting on what they are doing and how it impacts others. The more you engage with you child, in a nonjudgmental way after the playdate is over, the better. Chat about what they did well and celebrate their effort. I heard you tell Julie what to do and what game to play. What do you think Julie felt when you told her what to choose? What choices did Julie get to make? What choices did you get to make? Let’s look at whether or not that was fair together. Then also ask your child what they struggled with and make a plan and practice for the future.

Kids can learn that even though they have to distance themselves right now, they don’t have to forget about the ties they have to their friends.

Read more about Social Skills development

and COVID resources

 

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