Social skills training groups vary tremendously in their ability to help children not only learn but also transfer skills from a group to a home and school environment. For many children, learning new social skills is like learning a foreign language. Similarly to acquiring a new language, it’s important that the kids are immersed in the thinking and culture of interpersonal skill building.
These skills need to be practiced inside and outside of group in order for new friendship skills to take hold.
When a child participates in a Stepping Stones social skills program, we offer a simultaneously-running parent group. Experience has shown that the parent’s role is critical to progress and success, and the parent’s group emphasizes tips and techniques for parents to use at home to foster positive social and emotional development, better manage behavioral issues, and lessen family stresses. Parental involvement in reinforcing those skills learned in group is instrumental in effecting change and making new social skills “stick.”
Repetition and rehearsal are key factors in transferring learned skills to a child’s natural environment. In the Stepping Stones parent groups, parents are taught the same skills that the kids are working on so that learning and practice continues at home.
When parents participate in this way, they help deepen a child’s understanding and help move learned skills into the child’s “muscle memory” – where behaviors become more natural and automatic.
Children acquire the necessary skills exponentially more quickly and deeply when parents and clinicians are all on the same page.