Cathi Cohen, LCSW
As a parent, you want your kids to get good grades. But you also want them to be happy, to have friends, and to enjoy going to school each day.
Making friends is an important part of your child’s school experience and may even have an impact on her grades. If your child has found a niche in her classroom’s social scene, she’s more likely to do well academically.
Children with that sense of belonging are not feeling threatened, and they are more likely to be able to focus and feel comfortable at school.
For some children, making friends comes naturally from a young age. Others struggle to fit in. Even kids who usually make friends easily can hit a rough patch when they change schools, are assigned to a different class than their best friend, or get into an argument.
Just about every child struggles socially at some time and in some way.
Here are some steps for helping a child through a difficult social time:
Step 1: Empathize, but don’t overreact.
Your son may say he “hates Chris’ guts” one day but be back sitting next to him in the cafeteria the next day. Don’t rush to try to solve your child’s problem. Just listen and give an extra hug.
Step 2: Get the facts.
Kids, by definition, lack perspective. They may be teased by one person and feel everyone is picking on them. Remind your child that disagreements are a normal part of friendships.
Step 3: Respect your child’s personality.
If your child doesn’t want to be the life of the party, that’s OK. This revelation can be hard for a parent who is more of a social butterfly.
Step 4: Offer guidance.
Some kids pick up on social cues easily, while others need more help. For example, your child might not be able to perceive the difference between an accidental slight and an intentional one.
Step 5: Seek help.
If the situation is going on and on and is causing distress, get professional help. A school counselor or pediatrician is a good place to start. Sometimes it’s hard to know whether a child is having serious problems fitting in at school or are just experiencing the usual ups and downs.
If you are concerned, have questions or want more information, contact In Step. We are here for your whole family.