My Child is Lonely, What Should I Do?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Should I Set up Mandatory Socialization?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Deeper Dive:

How Transformation Happens

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

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

DO This At Home!

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

Social Emotional Challenges of Gifted / Learning Differences Children and Adults

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Social Emotional Deeper Dive

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

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

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

Self Awareness in Social Emotional Learning (SEL)

DO This At Home!

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

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?

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


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