The Critical Need for Empathy 

We are in a chapter unlike any before. Now, more than ever, we have a critical need for empathy – as well as an obligation to demonstrate it.  Not only are we in a social crisis – we are sick and tired of it. Socially distancing made us exhausted, emotional and LONELY – and now we are putting the masks back on.

Are We Becoming More Empathetic, or Less?

We came together as a community at the start of COVID – backing each other, placing signs of support on our front lawns, sharing memes….  but could we also have been hiding behind screens? Add to that our inability to cue into non-verbal social exchanges – and now we are left confused and questioning our own intentions. Have we become so divided between those who believe and those who don’t that we now openly attack each other?

What is Empathy?

What is empathy? Empathy is the ability to step into another person’s shoes in order to better understand their feelings and perspectives. Once we have surmised an understanding, we use this information to guide our actions and show compassion.

What Empathy Is Not

The ability to show empathy is a life skill – it can be strengthened at any stage of human development. From the child who quits bullying to the coworker who adequately expresses remorse at the death of another’s pet, empathy is about putting in the work to discover others’ ideas, opinions, tastes, etc. It is not to be confused with kindness or pity. Empathy is not stagnant; it requires effort and mindfulness.

How Does Empathy Come About?

New research indicates that we are homo empathicus, wired for empathy, social cooperation, and mutual aid; not only self-interested creatures as originally believed.

Environment, genetics, social and cultural factors influence our ability to feel empathy. Some folks, due to brain-based challenges, do not read social cues, facial expressions and emotions well. They may lack the perspective or the self-awareness to see how others interpret their actions and behaviors.  Their intentions are good, but they do not understand how they come across.

Teaching Empathy

In order to foster empathy, the surrounding community and environment must support the desire to promote empathy and kindness. Yes, there are examples in concentration camps where individuals have learned on their own – in horrendous conditions – to show empathy, but unfortunately that is the outlier.

By far, most of us learn empathy by seeing another model it and reinforce it with actions and messages. But empathy doesn’t stop developing in childhood. We can nurture its growth throughout our lives.

How to Make Empathy Part of Our Daily Lives:

  1.  A Stranger is Just a Friend You Haven’t Met Yet – Do you find others interesting – perhaps even more interesting than yourself? Empathetic people are curious about others, and reach out willingly to engage. Curiosity pushes us outside our comfort zones. If this is not a strong suit, see my post Encourage Social Skills Development.
  2. Spend a Day as Someone Else – When was the last time you connected with others outside your social circle? How can we gain an understanding of the people from different demographics if we don’t connect? Spend a day in a local town that offers ethnic foods. Take the train and hop off somewhere new. Ask a friend if you could join them at their synagogue or church.
  3. Share Emotional States – To be truly empathetic, we must allow ourselves to be vulnerable. Sharing your pain with another goes a long way toward being empathetic. When others are sharing, listen as intently as possible. Look for non-verbal cues too – designed to help you better relate. Keep asking yourself, “What do other people feel? What is my reaction to their behavior? What did their facial expressions tell me about their feelings?”

When circumstances jolt us from our routines, it is hard to reset. Business is not the same as usual. Now is the time to discover ourselves through self-reflection – and by becoming interested in the lives of others.

The ability to understand other’s emotions and respond with kindness is an essential life skill that must be practiced throughout our lives.

Deeper Dive:

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Why Is My Child So Rude All The Time?

Not again! Your child interrupts others, abruptly walks away, refuses to look you in the eye and stays on her phone during family social events – rolling her eyes when an older relative rebukes her. He tells his friends that he wasn’t picked for the coveted swim team because they are mean and he wouldn’t join even if invited. Do you ask yourself, “Why is my child so rude all the time?

Do you Worry That Your Child is Rude?

Are you feeling embarrassed, baffled, and uncertain why your child is more rude than their siblings and friends? Do you wonder how she doesn’t seem to understand how she presents to others? Will he alienate friends, bosses, and their spouse? You’ve tried to explain – possibly even lecture at times – but to no avail.

Reasons Your Child May Be Considered Rude

Some children don’t mean to present as rude, but they lack the communication skills and the understanding of how they present. Some children and teenagers with weak executive function skills often can’t read the social nuances of body language, facial expressions, mo


od, or tone of voice. This challenge often results in off-putting comments or tones that can create unhealthy dynamics.

Often as parents we feel shame when our child presents as rude. But remember that your child wants to do well and has so many good qualities. By partnering with your child and helping her learn how to shift her communication and read other people, you give her a gift that lasts a lifetime.

How to Help a Child Build Social Skills

Guide Don’t Preach

No one can remain attentive when lectured to. Dictating that they must be thoughtful and caring may have the opposite effect. Instead, guide your child to consider another’s situation or point of view. Use open questions and collaboratively reflect on other’s state of mind. By asking open-ended questions, you encourage honest, candid, and thoughtful discussions. Open-ended questions use the words who, what, when, where, and how. Here are some conversation starters:

What could he be feeling? How are you doing? What makes ______ appealing? I have noticed that sometimes you have a hard time with (identify a behavior). What makes (name the behavior) hard for you?”

Help Identify Rude Tone 

Some children who struggle with social skills do not hear – or interpret – their own tone. They do not realize that the way they are communicating can be off-putting or rude. When both of you are calm and in good humor – so as not to cause overreaction – collaborate on how one can tune into tone. Ask, “Has you experienced a rude tone in others? What did it sound like? How did it make you feel?” Share a time when you have found yourself struggling with tone and then ask your child if there are times she struggles.

Step into Someone Else’s Shoes

Perhaps it was your child who acted insensitively to Grandma. Collaboratively talk about your child’s behavior and ask him to interpret how his behavior might have made Grandma feel. “How do you think she feels when you correct her? What did you mean to do?” Lead by example as you try to understand the perspective of others. Model holding back sharp comments and filtering your social media retorts. When you witness a situation in which someone is involved in an emotional experience, appropriately and respectfully talk to your child about another person’s experience. This may be during or after the incident, but consider questions like, “What do you think is going on in your friend’s life? What did you notice about her reaction to the situation?”

WIFM- What’s in it For Me?

You may want your child to change but she may not think there is a problem. Rather than pushing your agenda, try to help her become more self-reflective and to consider what is in it for her. Link these discussions to her goals. Motivation to change is a key element here, and your goals are not her goals. As coaches, we shepherd and guiding our children to learn how the social world works. Perhaps she is going into animation, she will therefore need to work on a team. Open questions and short, brief conversations can help your child consider what people skills she will need. Ask her, “What it do you think it will be like? What skills will you need? How well are you now in working with teams? What will you need to do to work with a team?”

Reflect on the Rules of the Social World

The concept of Social Spy is designed to learn how to manage concerns around social skills and social and emotional development. Go into a virtual or public event with a mission to be a social spy to obtain specific social information. Rehearse ahead of time in order to watch other people in a subtle, covert way and to listen without looking like you are eavesdropping. The idea is to scan and read the room to learn crucial information about peers such as how they dress, what they talk about as well as how to observe and notice other people’s behavior, mood and energy. Distance yourself and just reflect, for example,“What did you notice about her reaction to the situation? What does fitting in mean?”

Deeper Dive

Video: Starting the Coaching Conversation

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

DO This At Home!

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

The 7 Must-Haves for Social Success

When socializing seems to come so easily to certain people, it can be particularly frustrating to be someone who struggles in social situations.

Sometimes, it can feel like youre simply missing out on something that everyone else understands, or that you just cant get on the same page with other people. In these cases, it can be helpful to think about the social skills you have, and which ones you can work on, in order to catch up.

Caroline Maguire is a professional certified coach and the author of Why Will No One Play With Me?, a book about learning to make frends and thrive socially. Keep reading to learn all about the seven things she believes are critical for social success.

1. Managing Emotions

The first social must-have is the ability to manage emotions, rather than have them manage you. Its about being able to process your emotions, and have perspective, and live a life where youre not constantly flooded by emotions and besieged by drama. Perspective helps you realize when something warrants a big reaction or needs to be processed so you can move on.

The life of a girl is really complicated, and when girls have weak emotional regulation and struggle with this, it consumes them and derails them from their goals. Its not that it doesnt happen to boys too, but I think teen girls are often confronted by this need to regulate their emotions. Everyone knows that person who isnt able to cope with their emotions, or whose life is constantly haunted by their emotions, so my goal for young people is to learn strategies to manage their emotions so they can go in and take the test theyve studied for, and have social interactions where they can be proud of the way they reacted. – Caroline Maguire

2. Reading the Room

Some people have a really hard time not only understanding whats going on in a situation and adapting their behavior for it, but also reading the mood and context of a situation. By understanding and scanning whats happening, they can start making choices about how theyll react and how they want to behave.

When you dont read the room, you wind up constantly baffled by whats going on. Thats really hard, because it puts you in a position where youre not really sure why everyone is constantly annoyed with you. That can affect self-esteem, and theres a lot to navigate in social situations in the teenage years, so reading the room is pretty essential in terms of the nuances of figuring out which friends you want to be with and who makes good choices. – Caroline Maguire

3. Meeting People Halfway

We all have that friend, and somehow were always at their restaurant, doing what they want. Meeting people halfway is about cooperation, but its also this idea that when youre in a friendship, it should be reciprocal. You shouldnt always be doing favors. You shouldnt always have to bend. Its about setting boundaries. It can be a stereotype for girls. Were asked to adapt, rather than ask other people to adapt to us. Think about how people treat you, and how you actually want to be treated. – Caroline Maguire

4. Understanding Social Cues and Unspoken Rules

This skill underlies everything else on the list, because everywhere we go, and in everything we do, there are these unspoken rules. Its important that people tune into the fact that social cues are really about reading the room. However, when youre feeling anxious, that can prevent you from tuning in, and when you cant hone that, youre not necessarily going to be able to navigate social situations as well.

Ive been reading a lot of research about political skill, and the need not to be a politician, but to adapt your message in order to influence people. If you want to be a leader, you have to be able to read social cues in order to make that work. – Caroline Maguire

5. Walking in Someone Elses Shoes

This is actually my favorite social skill, because we talk so much about empathy and kindness, but what exactly are they? Empathy is simply seeing from the perspective of another person and being able to walk in their shoes. Its thinking about other people and being able to react to them. Its also about having an understanding of whats going on with other people and their emotional lives.

This is critical for all ages. Its the underlying skill you need in life. Empathy and kindness are often the piece thats missing, and for so many young women, theres just so much of this me, me syndrome going on. Theyre asked to see other peoples perspectives, while not seeing the same for them in return. All literature shows that if you can do that, then you can influence people and you can really be successful in life. – Caroline Maguire

6. Being Flexible and Adaptive

This one can be tricky with young women because we dont want to send the antiquated message that they need to bend over backward for anyone. Still, to work cooperatively with others, you need to be able to adapt. We need to collaborate with people and be willing to hear the other side. Its not about always giving in, but working collaboratively. Working with others is a key skill at all stages of life. – Caroline Maguire

7. Knowing Your Audience

We all communicate with all kinds of people every day, and we need to know who that person is, and what motivates them, and then adapt our message to that audience. We have to always look at who were talking to in order to know what tone and what language we want to use. Thats an invaluable life skill. – Caroline Maguire

Honing Your Skills

Start by looking at which of these skills are hardest for you and which ones youve been given feedback about. Sit down and think about systemic struggles you have, or things that folks have said. Where do they trace back to?

The most important thing to remember is that nobody can change everything about themselves. Its just impossible. If you look at the list and realize you need to work on three of the seven skills, that doesnt matter. Instead, pick one, because if you pick more than one, youre going to get mired in the cycle.

My biggest tip is every time you enter a doorway, you should focus on tuning in. Use that as a trigger to remember to work on reading the room, or reading social skills. You have to have a cue because you cant go around working on things every minute of every day. – Caroline Maguire

Setting Healthy Boundaries

The key with boundaries is figuring out whats good for you and what youre okay with. Youre putting your self-interest first and thinking about what youre responsible for, and understanding when someone is taking advantage of you. Its knowing the difference between what a good friend would do, and what a pushover would do. Its helpful to look at other folks and to have a role model who you think sets good boundaries. Thats a key element for anyone whos maturing. – Caroline Maguire

Tuning in

One of the things I emphasize is that context, mood and energy are so important. The vibes we pick up are intangible. I recommend picking some people in your life—your teachers, your boss, your coach—and looking at the social signs and signals they put into the world. What do those signs say? Are they frustrated, or happy, or growing annoyed with you? Then make a mental catalog of them. When you next walk through a door into a new situation, notice those physical signs and signals, or words. Its all very subtle, but they cue you in to the mood, and the context, and the situation.

Its also important to remember that everyone is working on something. Our brains can make things really difficult for us sometimes, even when they should be easy, but well all be better off if we can be mindful that everyone is working on trying to improve themselves. – Caroline Maguire

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?

5 Reasons Why We’re All Hyper-Sensitive Now (And How You Can Take Your Sanity Back)

Why We are Sensitive During COVID-19

sensitivityFor some – maybe for you – this pandemic has been dreadful. The isolation and loneliness. A job loss. Death or illness. New worries about finances, health or the future. The pandemic has left an indelible toll on the country.

Experts also warn of a “second pandemic” – an increase in mental and behavioral illness that follows the first pandemic in its wake. A report by the United Nations and World Health Organization indicates that 45 percent of Americans reported experiencing distress due to the COVID-19 crisis.

What is Sensitivity?

Being sensitive about something doesn’t mean it has to be warranted. It means that YOU are feeling something deeply. It can be real or perceived. Feeling rejection, worry or irritation may be setting off your emotional alarms, which may then push you fight flight or freeze mode. Dr Stuart Shanker compares this phenomenon to a car alarm. Once the alarm has been activated, just tapping the car can cause the alarm to be triggered again.

How to be sensitive to your own mental health during the COVID-19 crisis.

  1. Do a body scan – Take a read on how you are feeling in your body and mind by doing an emotional temperature scan. Ask yourself, “Am I being too sensitive?” “Are my feelings warranted?” If the answer is yes, engage in mindfulness practices to de-escalate the effects of hyper-sensitivity.
  2. Figure out your tolerances – There are things in all of our daily lives that drain our energy and irritate us. What feels heavy to you? What irritates you? This may be the pile of clothes on a chair in your bedroom or the broken latch on the gate that keeps swinging open.
  3. Create hope and joy—Take back your happiness – Joy is hard to come by lately. Wouldn’t it be great to order a big box of it on Prime? With so much out of our control, don’t get discouraged. Recall how you have ushered in joy in the past and try to mimic the activities. Music, dance, creating things, talking to friends are just a few examples of ways to bring back happiness.
  4. Pick daily activities to cope with frustrations and emotions– Each day that is unproductive or in solitary can potentially be a day that brings disappointment. What activities can you do each day of the month? Perhaps more sports, or add new interests. A trip to the craft store can foster some much-deserved creativity. The point here is to build on strengths, develop new interests, and strengthen relationships.
  5. Respond Rather than React –An overly reactive response might be to yell at someone. To pause and craft a response is a more thoughtful, centered response. Rarely do good things happen when instigated from a reaction.Individually, we are all coping with this global pandemic.

    We are all dealing with this pandemic in our own ways, but we all need to embrace self care. The best self-care steps start with the basics: your hygiene, your health, your sleeping and your nutrition.

    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:

    5 Ways to Use Social Emotional Learning to Bring Back Joy

Self-Awareness in Social Emotional Learning


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?


Children With ADHD: Does It Ever Get Better?

Your Child with ADHD isn’t Trying to Upset You.

children with ADHDSymptoms of inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity can cause many problems if left untreated. If your child can’t focus and control himself, he may struggle in school, get into trouble, and find it hard to get along with others or make friends. These difficulties can lead to low self-esteem and possibly create a stressful home situation.

ADHD Treatment

Effective treatment can have a huge, positive impact on your child. Finding the right support, your child can get on track for success in all areas of life.

The first thing to do if you think you child may have ADHD is to seek professional help. Second, even without an official diagnosis, you can implement healthy changes to help manage her hyperactivity, inattention, and impulsivity. These interventions include therapy, ADHD coaching, parent education, mindfulness,  exercise, a simplified schedule and supports to both teach your child the life skills she needs and specific ADHD friendly structures and tricks.

The ADHD Diagnosis

If you do receive a diagnosis of ADHD, begin creating a personalized treatment plan with your child’s doctor. Include her therapist and school guidance department to make sure all bases are covered. Effective treatment for childhood ADHD includes the whole child and can involve behavioral or CBT therapy, ADHD coaching, possible medication, parent education and training, social skills support, school accommodation and possibly medication.

Parenting tips for children with ADHD

You may find yourself exhausted or cranky at times if your child’s energy makes it difficult for them to listen to you, finish homework or eat dinner.

Regain Control while Helping Your Child with ADHD

Create Structure –  Children with ADHD need consistency and clear communication. Praise is important to reward good behavior and logical consequences for poor behavior. They also need lots of love, support, and encouragement.

Help your child make friends – Help him become a better listener, learn to read people’s expressions and body language, and interact more smoothly with others. (See advice at the bottom of this page).

Take Care of Yourself too

As a parent of a child with ADHD, you need your mental, emotional and physical strength. The better you care for yourself, the better you can take care of your child. Diet, exercise, sleep, stress reduction and support from family and friends as well as your child’s doctor and teachers will help you.


Encourage Social Skills Development

The Silver Lining: Empathy and Kindness

Keep the Social in Social Distancing

Connection is a Verb

How to Nurture Social Emotional Development in Isolation

The Silver Lining: Empathy and Kindness

Are you finding yourself unsettled and anxious? 

Routines? What routines?

What really matters now?

When circumstances jolt us from our routines, it is hard to reset. Business is not the same as usual. For many, the answer is to help others…

If there is a silver lining in all of this… it is that we are experiencing unexpected kindness.

I stopped in my tracks after reading this post in a local chat group. THIS is why the human spirit will not be denied.

How to Help Someone Struggling:

First, to set the scene, you have to create an opportunity to actually talk and meet him where he is. Pick a time and place most comfortable for both of you to have this initial discussion. People tend to be more receptive to conversation when they’re physically comfortable, unhurried and undistracted.

Ask questions. Don’t judge. Don’t demand she change.

Use Open-ended Questions:

By asking open-ended questions, you encourage honest, candid and thoughtful discussions. Open-ended questions use the words who, what, when, where, and how. Below are some conversation starters:

  • How are you doing?
  • What do you like (not like) about your situation?
  • What interests you?
  • What is your virtual world like?
  • What makes ______ appealing?
  • I have noticed that sometimes you have a hard time with (identify a behavior). What makes (name the behavior) hard for you?

If your child or friend resists, ask him, “What feels hard about this?”

If he denies there is a problem, you can say, “Well I have noticed…” and then name a specific series of situations. Ask him what feels uncomfortable or makes him afraid of making that change. Share with him the things that could happen if he were willing to work on this concern and ask him what he would like to be different. You will share with him a picture of possibilities—what it could be like. Some key phrases that are helpful:

  • “I am curious”
  • “Tell me more about that.”
  • “What is that like for you?
  • “What does that feel like?

When you are curious and really listen, you can never go wrong.

Clarify Concerns and Express Empathy:

As she is responding to your questions, be sure to clarify her concerns by being a reflective listener: Listen closely, repeat back what you heard and ask if you understand correctly. You can say: “Here’s what I hear you saying…is that right?” If she feels that her concerns are heard and validated, she will be more open to hearing what you have to say. Accept and validate her sentiments by using you and I statements, such as “You are overwhelmed” and “I am sad you are lonely.”View Post

Finally, and this is very important, be sure to express empathy: “I hear you,” “I get it,” “That must be hard.”

Learn more:

3 Tips to Building Empathy During a Social Crisis

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When Your Tween Acts Up During Lockdown

My stuck-at-home 11-year-old spends her off-school hours on the online game platform Roblox. As screen time goes, it’s a pretty safe, kid-friendly and creative option, since with parental controls I’m able to lock down her privacy (that means no chats, ever).

But she resists screen time limits, argues about getting off Roblox to do chores and tries to push her bedtime later every night. She is worried about not being able to go back to sleep-away camp this summer. And annoyed that she can only FaceTime her friends, instead of seeing them in real life.

I get it. Her reaction is understandable, considering the fraught times we are living in.

But when she gets disrespectful, I can’t go to my usual set of consequences like threatening that she won’t be allowed to attend a friend’s birthday party, or being sent to her room (which is now her sanctuary). All the usual punishments are off the table when everyone is already essentially grounded.

Following are some experts’ suggestions on how to handle conflicts with tweens during lockdown.

Read more from Caroline in The New York Times


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