How to Balance Your Child’s Behavior and Your Role

How is your child’s behavior now that school is back?

Are things moving along smoothly?

Child's BehaviorIs your child, tween or teen excited to be back in school, yet not spending downtime with friends?

Does your child or teen prefer his phone to in-person friends, misses the coach’s clear annoyance, or abruptly stops a conversation and walks away?

How to Balance Your Child’s Behavior and Your Role

As a parent, are you caught in the middle, trying to balance your own emotions about her poor behavior while also recognizing the potential trauma that the pandemic may have induced? 

It can be embarrassing, but how do you stop it? It is important to realize some children don’t have the perspective or ability to see how others interpret their actions and behaviors. Their intentions are good, but they don’t really know how to tune in and “walk in the other person’s shoes.” When feeling bored, overwhelmed, hungry or tired a child or teen can unintentionally forget social rules and without meaning to, come across as uncaring and bad mannered.

Fix Your Child’s Behavior or Wait?

Social Emotional Learning

Our tendency as parents is to jump right in and fix it. The key is to understand that if your child could do better, they would do better. Your child is not trying to annoy you or embarrass you. He is struggling and does not have the skills to meet your expectations.

Should you just sit back and excuse the behavior? Certainly not! Your child may not read ordinary social cues and respond appropriately. This is an area that will be an ongoing challenge but also an opportunity to learn the practical problem-solving skills needed to adapt, engage, learn, and thrive as a social being.

One major skill that we all need to get along with others is to step into their shoes, think about how our behavior impacts our friends and to adapt our behavior to make sure we are considering the feelings of others.

This skill of stepping into someone else’s shoes is called Theory of Mind. Having Theory of Mind means understanding that other people’s thoughts and feelings may be different from your own. How many times have you heard someone tell you, “Think before you speak?” Children who do not have the ability to read the minds of others do not hear or notice that their tone, misguided humor, continual monologue, or how abrupt subject changes may alienate others. Parents are baffled as to what to do. The problem is that the child does not have the ability to read the minds of others cannot hear or notice that their tone, misguided humor, or abrupt subject changes may come across as rude and outright mean.

Teaching children theory of mind means helping the child to consider others’ point of view, perspectives, desires, motives, and intentions.  To do this effectively, parents will learn to use open questions and to develop this key skill.

Step Into Someone Else’s Shoes 

Your goal is to help your child recognize that you and others have feelings about his actions and that those feelings affect how people react to him.     

Ask Open-ended questions – encourage your child to talk and problem solve. Who, what, when, where, and how.  Open questions allow your child to hold the mirror up to his behavior and to hear his own assessment. They also make it easier to have the conversation since you are not interrogating him, you are curious.

Ask, “How do you think I feel when you correct me?” Have him look at your face and interpret your feelings. No matter what the answer is, even if it’s a shrug and an, “I don’t know,” continue to ask him, “I am curious what made you look up the answer on your phone?” Give him the space to think about it. Keep your cool. This begins to help the child think about what the unspoken social rules were and what they are expected to do in the future. The questions help the child reflect on other people’s state of mind.

The open-ended question coaching technique walks the child through interpreting other people’s point of view to examine how their actions and behaviors affect others.  Self-regulation and other coping skills may need to be practiced to help children put their best foot forward. The key is to help the child consider how they come across to those in their everyday interactions.

Focus on Your Child’s Strengths

When you identify your child’s strengths, interests, and brain-based processing style, it’s a game changer. It’s a journey, and consistency is the key. Find comfort in knowing that all children benefit from patient and nurturing parents. The open-ended questions technique is well suited to help children become more aware of how their behavior affects others.

Help Your Child Consider the Perspective of Others in Daily Life.

Ask her to spy and notice how people are reacting. Chat in the car, on the subway when examples arise and your child might see a live model where someone is lost in her phone and ignores overtures of friendship, examples of someone being rude or using a harsh tone of voice.

Social Skills Resources

How Can I Get Through to My Kid That He Has to Stop Arguing with His Teachers

My Son Disappears into the Basement

Empathy During COVID

5 Life Hacks to Recognize the Importance of Tone

This time of year, as parents wade back into the school routine, you may be noticing your tweens and teenagers have already missed assignments.

Similar to wading through a 1-800 customer service line, we can spend hours online trying to resolve issues. We encourage our tweens and teens to write their teacher and work through the systems themselves – even suggest they go to speak to a teacher to clarify an assignment or discuss missing work – but this can be fraught with complexities and even met with a wall of negativity and resistance.

Are you ever going to post the Latin assignment?” – Yikes!

Once we get our child to write these messages, we may find that the tone is abrasive, the messaging is incoherent, it’s missing important pieces and sometimes, you may even end up writing most of it yourself!

What we want for our kids, instead, is for them to actually learn these skills in order to build independence.

5 Life Hacks to Teach Your Child to Self-Advocate and Address Tone

  1. Read the email aloud – Read the email your kid just wrote aloud, together. Wonder out loud by asking, “Do you think there is “tone”? How do you interpret it?” If he doesn’t see it, tactfully point out the possible lack of clarity or the sharp tone. This allows your child to understand that their words, and the way they say things, may be unintentionally unclear, harsh or even inappropriate. Don’t preach and be a historian, just allow him to step into the person’s shoes.
  2. Spy and watch for tone of voice in the real world – When you two are out and about, tune into instances when someone has a negative, jarring or hurtful tone. What could the other people be feeling? What was the reaction on their face? Be conspiratorial. Don’t reference his own foibles, just evaluate his reaction.
  3. Create an email template with your child – Who wants a weekly inquiry? Instead, help your child write a few email templates for missing work, work that they did but did not register or assignments that need an extension or additional help.
  4. Rehearse in-person discussions – Speaking directly to a teacher can be hard or embarrassing. Your kid may genuinely feel overwhelmed by the prospect and have a myriad of reasons why they can’t; they don’t have enough time, it doesn’t matter, there is no partial credit, etc. Find out what makes it hard. Be patient. Calmly note the resistance, “I notice you are telling me how it can’t be done- is there another plan? What else can you do?” Rehearsing how to approach a teacher, what they can say and creating a plan as to when and where they can fit this discussion in may be essential.
  5. Link Self-advocating to what they care about – Self advocating is a life skill yet many kids, especially those with executive function challenges, may not have the bird’s eye view to recognize this. Rather than lecturing and allowing him to tune you out, link speaking self-advocacy to what is in it for me (WIFM). Consider together what is in it for her. Does it get you off her back or allow her to attend a specific social event? Does he want to be an engineer and wants his teacher to recommend him for a robotics club?

Self-advocacy is empowering. Speaking for yourself and making decisions about your life has big benefits, especially for kids who learn and think differently. Recognizing tone helps them appreciate nuance. Both these skills build confidence and independence – and the results may surprise them!

Social Emotional Learning Resources

Help Your Child Watch Their Tone

Back To School Social Emotional Support

The One Teacher Who Made a Difference

Help Kids Learn Basic Social Skills During the First Weeks of In-Person School

It’s been about three weeks since our children returned to school buildings. How is the new normal treating your family? For most, this is the first time since schools closed in March 2020 that our children have had a full-time, in-person schedule. Do you need to support your child as they re-learn basic social skills?

Most parents and teachers are cautiously monitoring our children: how are they holding up academically and socially while in new classroom arrangements that no longer offers grouping or indoor lunches?  

How to help young people learn basic social skills for the rapidly changing world

Social Emotional LearningI argue that students need to return to the classroom for the development of critical social skills as well as their mental and physical health.

Depending on the age of the child, some may not have been in a school building for two years. As students and adults adjust, I recommend parents “slow the roll” and help children re-adjust gradually. For some children, they may need basic social skills reteaching.

How to make sure kids learn basic social skills and independence:

1. Ensure your child knows how and when to ask for help –

Knowing how and when to ask for help is a critical, yet surprisingly complicated, skill life skill. Children first must recognize when they need help, and then manage their feelings that may get in the way. They may feel they ask too many questions already, or that the timing is wrong, or even that they may appear “stupid.” Should they move forward communicating their needs, they need to predict the likely reaction and clearly communicate their needs. Help your child by thinking through potential issues when they are at home and feeling safe. Coming up with relevant plans can empower children to get the help they need. Practicing the simple question, “Is now a good time for me to ask for help?” can help a reluctant child ask for the help they need.

2. Learn how to resolve a problem with a peer –

Conflict resolution is a key component of socialization that most of us encounter on a daily basis. Help your child prepare to deal with conflicts in advance. Many children and teens have difficulty communicating their feelings without allowing emotions to take over the conversation. Work with your kid on how to get a positive conversation started. I recommend modeling a pretend conversation to practice positive, productive communication regularly.  This life skill prepares children to make, strengthen, and salvage relationships.

3. Practice joining groups –

Being able to approach other people is a key skill, yet not an easy one for many kids. Practice with your child at home – with siblings or neighbors – on how to join a group.  Have your child first pause before heading toward the group to read people’s body language.  Find someone who is physically opened up so they can navigate into the group and then make eye contact with this person. A welcoming smile followed by a nod or contribution to the dialog will hopefully make this transition comfortable. Suggest your child take on a role in a group, such as yearbook photographer. This is a natural way to approach someone or a group. Being a member of a group or team will help your child get to know the others. Help your child develop a pre-game for those days when all of these emerging skills feel daunting.

4. Provide emotional support –

Before things escalate, help your child or teen recognize the signals for frustration and learn how to allow time to cool off. Due to immaturity or lack of experience in dealing with conflict, emotions can take over quite abruptly.

Providing paper and pencils in a “safe” location encourages children to write down, sketch, or draw their feelings. Guiding questions or a visual can help gauge the level of emotional support needed.

A child’s brain typically only recognizes one perspective – his own. Practice perspective-taking using summarizing or paraphrasing skills. Ask your child to recount their perspective or the scenario and repeat back to them how you understood them. This allows the child to hear their own thoughts more clearly and helps you better understand the situation.

5. Developing a new generation of leaders

The next generation will certainly carry a lot of responsibility. Our future depends on a new generation of leaders empowered with skills like empathy, resilience and appreciation for diversity – enabling them to face challenges and find innovative solutions. As parents and caregivers, we are our children’s first teachers.  We are nurturing the leaders of tomorrow. Help your child think about future planning by asking questions such as, “What do you want to be?”

Disrupted routines, social isolation and food insecurity are just a few of the consequences of COVID-19 that have impacted children. The impact on their mental health may not be fully appreciated for some time to come. It is our job, as trusted advocates, to protect, prepare and nurture our children by helping them learn basic social skills. We recognize that it’s only by closing the gaps in students’ social-emotional well-being that they can reach their full academic potential.

Hang tough, we are in this together.

Social Emotional Resources:

Back to school social emotional support

10 ways to teach your child social skills in daily life

Keep the social in social distancing

ADDitude Webinar: Social Confidence: How to Help Students with ADHD Re-Acclimate to In-Person School & Friends


Back to School Social Emotional Support

The Delta variant has all of us holding our breaths; PLEASE not another year of enforcing mask rules, keeping kids socially distanced, making up for lost learning and figuring out how to offer social emotional support!

You may be nervous about sending your kids back to school, yet you may prefer it to watching your kid hunched over a screen for another semester.

This year in particular, there is going to be a lot more talk about social-emotional support. Let’s talk about how to support your child emotionally.

Help Kids Emotionally Prepare for School

Now, as summer is still here and backpacks and school supplies are accumulating, is the best time to do an emotional check in. 

Ask open ended questions to really get to the heart of their feelings. Consider asking about their experience with COVID, how they feel about coming to school, and how they feel about where they’re at right now.  Patiently allow emotions to be expressed and give them opportunities and space to be able to deal and process what’s going on.

Focus on Mental Health

Job one is to address unmet social, emotional, behavioral and physical issues that will make academic learning more challenging. This is especially true for children who are introverted, who have learning differences and who have fallen most behind.  

Seeing teachers and friends will be a different experience for each child and teen. Re-adjusting back to “normal” will require a transition period – how long depends on the child and environment. Reintroduction into classroom routines will be benefited by summer preparation and interaction.

Social and Emotional Growth 

First graders have different needs than an eighth grader, however, both will have missed critical development. Social skills support for a first grader can include working on waiting, not interrupting, helping a friend and raising hands. The eight grader, will be entering high school for the first time with teachers they haven’t met in person yet. The support needed here are more complex as they try to navigate this new environment. These skills may include managing priorities, focusing on goals, being a positive influence, and daily life skills.

Implementing Home Strategies

As schools open, it is crucial that families incorporate SEL into their children’s schedules every day. This year will be like no other when it comes re-engaging, so try to be mindful of  the hurdles they face as you leap over your. 

If I had to pick the top skill to work on – for children and teens of all ages – I would recommend you concentrate on naming emotions. Naming emotions is an important part of learning how to regulate them. Without understanding the emotions they’re experiencing, they may get confused or upset. Not recognizing how they feel may amplify the feelings and make it more difficult to regulate the emotions.

No one knows what’s ahead, but with love, support and social skills development, we can put our best foot forward.

Social Skills Deeper Dive:

How to SEL – Parents – introduce and maintain age-appropriate SEL practices and activities that encourage communication, connection and mutual respect into daily life, without planning or prep.

Why We Need Social Emotional Learning Now More than Ever

My Child Is Hiding From Friends

How to Help Kids Learn Friendship Skills and Avoid Social Isolation

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 @



How To Help Shy Children Step Outside Comfort Zone

How Can I Help My Shy Child Make New Friends?

My child says it is too hard to play with new kids.  Aren’t we supposed to step outside our comfort zone? 

The first thing I suggest is to ask your child what makes this hard? Why does she avoid trying new things and joining in? The beauty of asking questions is that it allows the child to identify – for themselves – why this is the case and what lies outside their comfort zone. Your child may truly not know what to do or how to  join in.

Identify Something Each of You Can Work On

Make a pact with your child to each step outside your comfort zones and try something new.  Work on something hard for you and your child will work on this. Let her pick any activity, group or sport that she can just show up to. Introduce the concept of the comfort zone tool.

We all know how it feels to tackle something outside our comfort zone—all the more when it’s something hard for us.  (Read more about Comfort Zone on pages 147-149 in Why Will No One Play With Me?)

Comfort Zone

This exercise is a low-stress way to engage the child who is struggling to keep an open mind or start the process.  If your child has trouble with change, shows less buy-in than you wish or who says there is no problem, this can be invaluable.

Outside Comfort Zone Exercise

  1. Explain what it means when something is “outside your comfort zone” – What is our “comfort zone”?  Use examples from your own daily life. What things do you do easily every day? What things push you toward the edge of your comfort zone or clearly outside it? For example, I was nervous to learn to ski. It felt uncomfortable at first. You can prompt your child by asking questions about this idea of being uncomfortable and stretching to get beyond it. “Remember when you went to a new soccer team and felt like you wanted to stay with the old one?” Explain that in order to change and grow, we all must be willing to lean into discomfort and engage in the process.
  2. Outside comfort zone circle – On a piece of paper, have your child draw a large circle to represent his comfort zone. Leave a margin around the circle—that’s going to be the space for things outside his comfort zone. Ask him to jot outside the circle some things that are outside his comfort zone. Let your child tell you what those are.
  3. Inside comfort zone circle – Ask him to jot inside it things he does that are inside his comfort zone. These might include joining in with younger kids, staying out of the lunchroom, sitting only with one safe friend, things he loves like Legos, going to grandparents’ house, the after school program he prefers, eating favorite foods, playing with the same people or in the same place.
  4. Inside or Out? If your child hasn’t already named specific social expectations or situations, then ask, “Would _____ be inside your comfort zone or outside your comfort zone?”

Modeling is the Best Coaching Tool

I encourage you to push yourself into unfamiliar places. Modeling to your child that you are willing to do things that you wouldn’t normally do is the best way to coach them to do the same.

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?

Deeper Dive:

What if my child won’t discuss getting help for social skills?

5 Ways to Maintain Your Child’s Social Skills During COVID

About Caroline Maguire

Caroline Maguire, M. Ed., earned her undergraduate degree at Trinity College and her Masters of Education and Early Childhood Development at Lesley University with a specialization in social emotional learning (SEL).

Caroline is the author of the award winning book, Why Will No One Play With Me?, a playbook of foolproof scripts on how to build social skills.

She created a comprehensive Social Emotional Learning (SEL) training methodology for adults, parents, clinicians and academic professionals. 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).

Ms. Maguire 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 CHADD’s Attention Magazine, a favored contributor to U.S. News & World Report, Mind Body Green, Salon, Huffington Post, Today Parenting, ADDitude and WebMD.

Download her free video “How to Tell a Tighter Story,” for advice on how to curb rambling.

Please join her on FacebookInstagramLinked InTwitterMediumPinterest and download her free video “How to Tell a Tighter Story

What is Social Emotional Learning (SEL) and Why is it so Important During COVID?

What is Social Emotional Learning (SEL)

My simple definition of Social Emotional Learning (SEL) – the ability to manage our emotions, build strong relationships, and live in a state of empathy, joy and empowerment.

When you are feeling angry, irritated, overwhelmed in COVID, struggling to initiate caring communication, and bewildered by others’ choices and self-awareness, you are in the midst of a SEL experience.

You can adapt to and adopt effective strategies, or you can succumbed to its effects.

CASEL defines SEL as “how children and adults learn to understand and manage emotions, set goals, show empathy for others, establish positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.”

Social Emotional Learning SEL
Social Emotional Learning SEL framework from CASEL








CASEL’s five core competencies are self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making.

Why SEL Training is So Important During COVID

Social Emotional LearningNo one is immune to the effects of COVID. No one can argue that our children are particularly affected. I share the concern of educators and experts in the Social Emotional Learning field that unless we implement measure ASAP to safeguard our children’s mental and emotional health, the long-term fallout of social isolation may be dire.

Many educators, tossed into this new and challenging environment, are working tirelessly to address academic needs. Although most appreciate and acknowledge the importance of relationships, they are begrudgingly forced into deprioritizing its immediate importance.

How Can We Support the “Whole Person”?

The “whole person” theory includes all elements of human development. SEL development is an integral part of this theory. Research shows that SEL development is also critical for academic performance.







The COVID Upheaval

The upheaval we are experiencing now is hard on everyone: children, teens, young adults, parents, educators, and the community. Parents are having a hard time working from home (or not working) while teaching – not just supporting – children. Educators are no longer doing the work they loved because they are tossed into a hybrid learning model that even they don’t like.

Life skills do not just include knowing math, geography and how to balance a check book. They include the ability to read a room, manage emotions and self manage.

Regardless of the difficulty in our current situation, we can’t allow SEL de-prioritization. Without attending to our relationships, and managing our emotions, we will not be able to come out the other side “whole” and “united”.

Deeper Dive:

5 Ways to Use Social Emotional Learning to Bring Back Joy

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

Overview of SEL



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