Parents influence the nature of their child’s relationships with others in so many ways, indirectly and directly. A child’s tendency to approach or avoid relationships with others is due in part to the warmth, safety and connection experienced at home. For most children, when a parent models solid social skills, encourages positive interaction, and sets up socialization opportunities, their child experiences social and emotional acceptance and connection with others. But, for some kids, parents need to do more to make that happen.
More than any of the counseling services at In Step, our Social IQ development program, Stepping Stones, relies on parents to play a vital role in helping their child succeed socially. Our parent coaching groups meet simultaneously with the kids’ groups so parents can learn and practice the skills at home with their child in between sessions.
A lot has changed in the last 20 years since we began this program. We still ask a lot of our Stepping Stones parents. The academic, social, and emotional pressures on children and their families have exponentially increased over the years along with the desire to get things done more quickly and with less effort. Unlike in 1995, now parents are also overwhelmed with options. Some parents hope that enrolling their child in Boy Scouts/Girl Scouts or on a sports team will help them develop the skills they need, not realizing that their child needs to have the social skills first or these experiences can be counterproductive. There are play groups, lunch bunch groups at school, and short-term social skills groups all promising to help children get along better with their peers. With all of these offerings and the stress of making the right decision for their child, it is admirable that our Stepping Stones parents choose to invest their limited time, energy, and finances into participating in the Stepping Stones process.
We are very fortunate that our parents understand why we do what we do. They’ve read the research. Social competencies like self-regulation, active listening, reading body language and facial expressions, and empathy can be TAUGHT in a class or in a short-term group, but it is much more challenging for them to be INTEGRATED and DEMONSTRATED in every day life. This kind of progress for a child with social deficits requires time, practice with interaction and peer feedback, and a parent’s consistent efforts. We are fortunate to work with so many parents and kids over the years who are committed to the process. The success of our families is a direct reflection of their investment in the Stepping Stones Social IQ program.