Essential Guide to Transitioning to Social Interactions – Post COVID

Social isolation was not easy at first. We weren’t prepared for it. Now, one year later, we’ve grown accustomed to a lack of physical human interaction.

I have heard from people all over the world, distressed that they are unable to meet people every day, to interact and to have mundane conversations. But NOW I am hearing even stranger – and scarier – messages. Many have come to prefer a life with limited interactions. How do we venture back to in-person social interactions?

How to Transition Back to Face-to-Face Social Interactions

Introverts and extroverts alike are now expressing trepidation at transitioning back to ‘normal’ social interactions. I believe that returning to socializing, especially indoors, will lead to social anxiety for many people. Those of us living in colder climates, with a more limited outdoor social exposure, may find it even harder.

Transitioning Back to Social Interactions is Not Going to be Easy

In our herculean effort to save ourselves and loved ones from death, we have given up our freedoms and activities and put our lives on hold. This has not come without cost. In an effort just to survive, we have lost subtle nuances including reading the room to interpret energy, facial expressions, body language and tone.

Social interactions are going to be weird at first as we try to unlearn a skill we have come to master – being socially distanced aficionados. No longer can we hide behind screens, or turn off a screen when we lost interest. How do we strike up a conversation or fein interest without looking awkward – both mentally and physically?

It’s Time to Practice Social Interaction Skills

Social InteractionsAs we transition back to ‘normal’ life, it is time to remember and refresh the social skills we have been learning since childhood. It seems funny that we need to learn the skill of communicating again. Didn’t we learn this in kindergarten?

It may feel like a hassle, or a task, but it is now time to transition back to physical interactions. It may feel natural at times, and so awkward at others, but at least all of us are in the same boat.

Let’s Sharpen our Rusty Social Skills

It’s time to address our fears and build our social resiliency again

1.  Take a gradual approach – ease back into socializing slowly and keep your expectations low. Millions of Americans are getting vaccinated against COVID-19 each day. The writing is on the wall, we will be returning to “normalcy” soon. But for many, returning to previous activities will feel daunting. If 5 activities in a month feels too much, do only 2. Make sure it is enjoyable.

2. Build in a reward system – Just as you might opt for a new haircut or get a manicure after losing 5 pounds, give yourself a reward for each time you call or walk with a friend.

3. Treat yourself and others with kindness and respect – All of us have a different threshold of comfort. Practice modifying your tone and energy to come across as calm, quiet, polite, lighthearted, relaxed, chatty, non-confrontational, cautious, respectful, thoughtful, detached, curious, dulcet, soothing, earnest, light, breezy, gentle.

Socializing 101

Each of us will need to prepare our return to society based on what feels comfortable. What is ‘right’ for your friend may not hold true for you. That is fine and, well, human. What we all share, however, is the need for kindness, willingness and determination to pull out of this pandemic better than before.

Do This At Home

Connection is a Verb

Read more about social skills

Download Connection is a Verb graphic

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

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

How Adept are You at Reading the Room?

The Importance of Tailoring Messages

Have you ever mis-spoken? Have you mistakenly hurt, offended or alienated someone?

More than likely, you answer yes. And more than likely, you regret it and wish you could change that interaction.

Tailoring messages and our contributions is important because it builds community and friendships.

Reading the Room

It is important to learn how to scan the space and environment for verbal and nonverbal energy, words or dynamics. Why? So we can tailor our messages.

Stress impacts our ability to read the room. We are all under stress due to the  uncertainty associated with the pandemic and the political environment.  Reading the room right now may be different than it was before so taking others’ perspective is more important now than before.  The good news is you can work on this both virtually and in person.

Reading the Room comes easily for some, and less easily for others.

Reading the Room

How to Read the Room Today in Our Current Climate:

  1. Keep the camera on – If you struggle with reading the room or you feel your organization is super complicated, use the visual cues to monitor your participation.
  2. Perspective Taking – consider others’ perspectives by doing an “inventory”. Kids love this too. Imagine the people in your life. What are their thoughts, insights, values? Try to walk in their shoes. Who is this person? What do I know about them? What is important to them? How should I address them and tailor my message in hopes of it being received?
  3. Observe – allow yourself to observe rather than feeling the need to contribute. Check out facial expressions, mannerisms, delivery, words, mood and context. Being a spy, or observer, is one of the best ways to read the room.
  4. Practice – Pick one mission to avoid overwhelm. For example, you may decide that you will try to interpret body language and facial expressions only rather than trying to observe everything.

Questions From Adults:

Q: I have a hard time with fast-paced conversations. How can I become more adept at absorbing the dialog faster so I can  respond more quickly?

A: I recommend that you practice jumping in and making chit chat. Start with family and friends. Also I have noticed that most people think they are delayed while others may not notice a delay. Count how many beats it takes to respond. Also, ask questions. People love to talk about themselves and this gives you time to think and prepare.

Q: How to a read poker face?

A: Use your spy skills and open questions to try to better understand the other party. Some “poker faces” are harder to interpret, so just try your best.

Q: In what ways does wearing a mask wearing and social distancing impact people?

A: We must recognize that we are in a “new normal”.  Without a doubt, COVID has changed the way we can communicate and engage, but I urge you to continue to stay connected, even if it needs to be outdoors, 6 feet apart and with masks.

Q: How do you recommend reading body language via zoom?

A: If you are in charge of the meeting, ask others to leave their cameras on. Listen to tone of voice if camera is on, or off. Specifically ask for further information and feedback if you can’t adequately read the signals. If you are in groups, come up with ways that you all can discuss things more openly. Consider your audience and estimate how they will receive your message(s).

Q: How do you recommend engaging with people we haven’t met before?

A: Without background information to fall back on, I suggest you assume the stance that your audience is tired, besieged, etc. If you come from an extra-conservative approach, the chances of doing something inappropriate lessens. Continue to remind yourself of the messaging and what “brand” you want to portray.

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?


Are you an adult who struggles Reading the Room? Join me at the ADHD Women’s Palooza Summit, March 8 – 13, 2021. My presentation: Social Blind Spots: Couldn’t someone have told me I was embarrassing myself?  It is Free. Register here. 

10 Things To Calm YOU Down When Raising Kids With Executive Functioning Challenges

Raising Kids With Executive Functioning Challenges

Building strategies to help you calm down, thinking and wise in the moment – even when your child is reacting, melting down or seems oblivious to something urgent and necessary – is paramount.

Weak executive function means your child may be immature and might struggle with social and academic realms. Your child’s frontal cortex development may be 3 years behind neurotypical children.

Raising these kids can be rewarding, yet it also means you as a parent often have to be less reactive and more responsive when guiding your child.

Does any of this sound familiar? Your child:

  • Does her homework but she does not turn it in.
  • Polks someone so much on the bus that you have to apologize to the child’s parent.
  • Spaces out during class and misses the key information so you have to teach her the material rather than writing your critical report.
  • Melts down like a toddler, yells at you in rage or hides in the basement.

Raising children with executive function challenges can be draining. It is important to build your own internal resources so you can respond to your child or teenager in a way that makes you an effective parent.

10 Things To Calm YOU Down When Raising Kids With Executive Functioning Challenges

  1. Have a mantra  – Reminding yourself that you are in control and that your child truly is doing the best they can – most of the time. A manta such as “they would if they could” or “this is a long term journey” Or “I’m in the middle of something tough, but I can do this!”
  2. Breath – Breathe in and out eight times, or set the timer on your phone and breathe until you feel calmer. Say something to yourself that helps you regulate your anger. When parents are angry it is like throwing kindling onto a fire. Read more on the benefits of the pause.
  3. Take a break- Don’t be afraid to say you need to take a break and that you cannot give any answers right now or discuss the issue further. Some children or teens will follow you around campaigning for an answer but you do not have to give them an answer on.
  4. Create daily calming rituals – Your cup needs to be filled in order to support your child.  Actively create daily practices that you can draw on to relieve stress. Simple rituals that will allow you to work with your five main senses will calm you down when you are beset with a racing mind, insomnia or general worry. Rituals can include: mindful listening, self-massage, vision boards, and tea ceremonies.
  5. Identify your own body signals – Our bodies tell us when we are becoming heated. When you are experiencing an emotional reaction, signals in your body and mind will let you know a reaction is brewing. If you pay attention to these physical signs, you are better able to enact coping strategies and remain calm. Learn your signals so you know when you are losing control. Is your face turning red, do you breathe heavily, clench your fists? Recognize the signs and practice self control.  (See chart above for common body signals).
  6. Reframe negative self talk – Recall that your child would do better if they could. Walk around the block and remind yourself that their struggles are real.
  7. Think of all your child’s strengths and positive qualities – It can be easy to concentrate on their tough traits at times, but reminding yourself that they are funny, sweet, kind, thoughtful and creative will help put things back into perspective.
  8. Visualize a Peaceful, Calm and Favorite Place – Do you love the beach, a quiet reading nook, or a walk in nature? Get yourself mentally in this peaceful place when your running low on empathy.
  9. Drink a hot and comforting beverage – Tea ceremonies are a great way to relax. Schedule a tea or hot beverage break into your day or run for the tea kettle when things get hot. Better to have hot tea than a hot head!
  10. Sing a song – I personally think that singing in your head can be more effective, and more considerate, than out loud. When songs are in our head, we don’t worry if we have all the words, if our tone is off or if we are annoying others. It is a great way to be present and to calm yourself down.

DO This At Home!

There are Lots of Ways to Build Social Skills at Home.

It’s a journey, and consistency is the key. Parents should find comfort in knowing that all children benefit from patience and nurturing .

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

Deep Dive

Watch how to create a mental video with your child to help them get tasks done.


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

He can’t seem to make friends, or the friends he does make, you don’t like. More than likely, you already know that banning anything rarely works. When you push, they pull. This goes for your teen’s friendships too. What is the answer? Collaboration.

What To Do When Your Teen Can’t Make Friends or the Friends are Questionable

can't seem to make friendsPeers are the biggest factor influencing teens. Your daughter can’t seem to make friends and / or may be trying to fit into a friend group that is causing her to change her behavior or make poor choices. There are all types of friends, but no one can doubt that the friend that has your back is by far a greater asset than the one who is, well let’s just say, “questionable”.

She Can’t Seem to Make Friends You Like 

What can be more troubling than watching from the sidelines as your teen engages with others who don’t treat him well? Yes, this is a rhetorical question because this is on the top of the list of parental heartbreaks.

Should you Ban the Friendship?

We would jump in front of a train to protect our kids, so why is the subtle stuff more difficult? Because it takes reasoning, patience, and a look toward the horizon. Banning will not help your teen consider what a good friendship is, nor will it bring about joy.

Plus, it will more than likely lead to a big divide in the parent-child relationship.

Increase the Chances of Being Heard

Creating a non-judgment dialog should be at the top of the list. Remember what Maya Angelou said, “’I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.’

By talking to your daughter about friendship, without judging or imposing restrictions, you increase the chances that she will go to you when she has problems.

5 Ways to Build Trust and Conversations Around Friendships

  1. Listen. Listen. Repeat. – this is harder than this sounds, but do your best to hold back judgement, your thoughts and the urge to jump in. Your daughter will open up more if she feels heard. By holding back judgment, you create an atmosphere in which your daughter feels safe enough to talk.
  2. Ask Open Questions – Truly understanding her, and enabling her to understand her own reasoning, is one of the best gifts you can give – to you both. As you enter the discussion, here are some questions you could ask:
  • What is it about these new friends that appeals to you?
  • What do you have in common with them?
  • How do you see your friends treating you?
  • What does an enjoyable friendship look like?
  • What kind of person do you want to be?
  • Can you be that person with these friends?
  1. Understand Your Teen’s Perspective – Your teen thinks no one understands him: not you; not your spouse; not his sister; not his teachers or coach. The only one who “understands” him is his friends. The more you step into his shoes and listen, the more you can work together to meet his needs.
  2. Reflect, clarify, be curious– Paraphrase what your teen says and repeat it back to her. When you do this, you show empathy and you help both of you clarify your child’s concerns. Be curious and ask non-confrontational, non-judgmental questions.
  3. Don’t Impose Your Values – Don’t assume you understand the reasons why your daughter chose these friends. Keep your agenda in mind as you talk through the importance of friendship, but the goal is to keep your child talking, and to show her that you have confidence in her.

Keep Communication Open

Without “creeping around,” research her friends by asking coaches, teachers, friends etc. You may be misinterpreting based on your own personal biases. If there were friends from the past that both you and your teen consider as a good friend, consider creating venues for them to interact again. Give her a place to feel good about herself — an activity where she is interested, can pursue her passion, and develop a stronger sense of self.

You daughter may be choosing the wrong friends for many reasons. The most important thing is to keep the communication flowing.

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

Deep Dive:

Keep the Social in Social Distancing

15 Phrases to Spark a Conversation About Social Dilemmas

When should I intervene with my child’s friendships?


Social Emotional Needs of Children

Children often struggle with social emotional skills. Social skills can be learned at any age, but it may develop slowly. Stay patient.

Parents need to stay in tune of their child’s specific social emotional needs and help shape a strong framework for social-emotional health. I believe that children need peers of the same intellectual, emotional and curiosity levels.

6 Ways to Build Social Skills in Your Child:

  1. Build Her Organization and Problem-Solving Skills – Your child may struggle with disorganization because of high expectations of herself and others. Every day, help your child learn to think for himself. If he can’t find his notebook, guide him to recall where he might have left it. Practice developing problem-solving skills by explaining that you expect her to try looking before coming to you for help.
  2. Monitor Workload – Be gentle on your child and let her know that she does not need to strive for perfection. Help her break down assignments so she can learn when and how to take a break. Place a timer in her work area so she can get self-monitor when to take breaks. Don’t correct every grammatical error so she doesn’t worry about falling short in your, or others’, eyes.
  3. Practice ahead of time – Help her learn how to reach out and make friends by practicing with you or siblings in emotionally safe situations. With each simulation, determine a specific goal to work on. Simulate the challenge as best as you can to replicate the feelings. Review the success and work together to find strategies to address the challenges.
  4. Discuss ahead of time strategies – Together, when he is ready to listen, work on his challenges. Work together to create a plan to work on his urge to control situations and others. Be sure to build in a pause. Counting to 10 or breathing slowly to regain composure is helpful. Create a code word to remind him when he needs to address his behavior.
  5. Review Friendship issues – Your child may have a hard time making friends. Help your child think of kids that she likes and would like to get to know better. Work on ways she can reach out to them.
  6. Circumvent self-esteem issues – If he feels lonely, it is important to ask open questions to better understand what his emotions are. Role play the act of first saying hello and starting conversations.

Parent Coaching

Your goal is to help your child adopt new, positive skills and behaviors. You want them to practice in safe and trusting environment. Part of your child learning social skills is practicing without parents intervening. When a coach is watching a football game he does not suit up and take over. He makes notes to give the players at half time. As a parent coaching your child to improve his social skills the best way to help is to guide, prepare and allow him to practice without minimal interference.

For more information, watch my video on how to encourage social skills development

Read When Parents Embrace Social Emotional Learning Kids Feel the Joy Again



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

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?


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!)

Empathy is Compassion

What is Empathy?


Self awareness and empathy are not just “nice to have,” they impact people’s ability to be successful in life. Research has shown that people who cannot imagine another person’s inner emotional life, who cannot manage their emotions and who cannot read the room, struggle in the workplace and are less successful than people who have critical social emotional skills.

Empathy is showing compassion, understanding another person’s experience. It is walking in someone else’s shoes.  The chances of bullying or ignoring another’s pain lessens remarkably in highly empathetic people.  The ability to show empathy is a life skill. Reading the Room is a skill everyone can, and should, build. Identifying the physical and non-physical energy of a room helps you build friends.  You are expected to express sorrow when someone is in distress.

Understanding Other People’s Emotions can be Taught

The child or adult who lacks empathy can be seen as uninteresting, selfish, boring and self-absorbed. Parents and teachers can teach empathy. This training can actually save this child from years of pain and isolation. Remember Empathy is Compassion, and who doesn’t need more of that?

How to Teach Empathy

Teaching empathy must involve the community and the individual. A community that respects each other will foster empathy. Greater understanding of empathy comes about by working with the individual. What does empathetic behavior look like? Modeling reinforces empathy, as actions and messages help others learn to  “walk in someone else’s shoes.”

3 Situations to Teach Empathy

•  The emotional experience of others – Draw attention to the emotional experience of others as the act is occuring. Quietly observe without staring, and later have conversation about this episode. How could that person have felt? What was that experience like for you to witness? What could be going on in their lives? What did you notice about her reaction to the situation? How do you think you would have reacted in his shoes?

Lack of Empathy in Individual – When an unpleasant behavior or action occurs, collaboratively talk about it. Rudeness or lack of empathy should be signals that this person is not interpreting how his behavior affects others. Ask, How do you think I feel when you correct me? Is that what you intended?

Others’ Point of View – Preaching rarely works. Instead of insisting, try to explore the state of mind of the person you wish she would reach out to. How does Grandma feel when you don’t visit? Do you think he would have liked to be invited to lunch? Step into the shoes of others 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?

Empathy is a social emotional learning skill that needs to be taught. It is as important to a person’s development as academics. Teachers and parents have many resources, including those in Why Will No One Play With Me? to practice at home. This is particularly relevant during COVID.

Deeper Dive:

December 3, 2020 – Social Emotional Training for Teachers and Adults with Caroline Maguire and Scarlett Lewis

3 Tips to Building Empathy During a Social Crisis

Why Teaching Your child Empathy Builds Their Social Skills – Psychology Today


Self-Management Skills Required this Holiday

Like our nation, many of our families are divided.

Self-Management Skills Required this HolidayThis election was a BIGGIE! Whichever side you are on, chances are self-management skills will be required this Holiday season!

What is meant to be a time of joy, kindness, generosity and togetherness can be tinged with dread. We dread the division of our families and our country. We dread witnessing the jabs between our favorite aunt, who is waving a Trump flag, and our favorite cousin, who has spent his life in social service and is vehemently against Trump.

Like our nation, many of our families are divided

And like the country, our families are not always communicating with each other in the way that we would hope.

We love BOTH our aunt and our cousin.  Our children, sitting at the small folding table next to the adult table, are watching us. We are their models. Self-management skills will be required this Holiday season and they can do better if we do better. Moreover, children have a way of loving everyone for who they are – even in a big burly sweater.

Self-Management Skills are Required this Holiday Season

What if we could be proud of our self-management?  What if we step into someone else’s shoes and try to remember who these people are and what they have meant to us? What if we pause before we speak?

Self-management requires self-regulation, self-reflection, perspective taking and/or stepping into someone else’s shoes. Use our understanding of the other person’s past and intentions, we can project their possible reactions.  Our self-awareness will help us react in measured and respectable ways.

We need strategies on how to  offer – and accept – compassion, kindness and perspective.

5 Strategies for Improved Self-Management Skills This Holiday Season:

1.Remember Intention– Assume and remember the best intentions of those around you. What has each one done for you? This is especially important for the relatives on the other side of the aisle.  For those relatives with whom you don’t share the same views, make an extra effort to listen to them. Validate their feelings and emotions.  You can say, “Interesting. I can see why you would feel that way.”  As you express your opinions,  remember to focus on the kindness, compassion and respect your relative has shown you for years, her acts of love and affection.  What you say can damage your relationship.

Self-Management Skills Required this Holiday2.Walk in their Shoes  What could be going on in the his life? Has this year been particularly tough financially? Could COVID have hit her family harder than yours?  Don’t assume motives. Ask Open Ended questions and truly listen to the response without judgement.

3.Build a Bridge to Understanding –If your intention is to speak to your family with respect, ditch the one-liners, zingers and sarcasm. Breathe deeply, pause and respond in a way that convey respect. Keep your tone neutral and avoid words like “always” and “never”.

4.Listen- Listening isn’t just not talking. It involves eye contact, and connection. Keep facial expressions and body language relaxed and friendly. Don’t interrupt or “one-up” either.

5.Manage Emotions Rather Than Having Them Manage You– Now, before the holidays arrive, make a mental or written note of the symptoms your body expresses when it becomes agitated. Come up with ways to lessen these reactions so you don’t overheat and blow your top or say something you wish you didn’t. Use mindfulness to manage your emotions by recognizing the signs and breathing consciously to slow your mind and thoughts.

6.Don’t climb onto the soapbox – It is highly unlikely that you will influence or change anyone’s deep-seated beliefs over pumpkin pie. Keep away from the lectures and ask for another slice of pie instead.

7.Find the similarities– Humans share lots in common as a species. Emphasize commonality and stay away from shaming or declarations of incompatibility.

This holiday season, instead of banning certain topics, institute rules of respect. Insist on giving each member equal time, refrain from interruptions and allow a retort.

In my practice, one of the things I do is teach kids how to listen to one another, to show respect to their peers, and to practice the skills of empathy in order to form a connect. Now more than ever, we need to be reminded of those skills, and practice them with gusto.


SEL Guidance in Response to the 2020 Election
CASEL offers guidance and resources for creating safe, supportive learning environments in which young people and adults can process the election and continue their civic participation.


When Someone Isn’t Nice, Should You Ignore It?




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