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Friendships are essential to a child’s social and emotional development. As a parent, it can be frustrating, and at times, downright painful to watch your child struggle to connect with his/her peers. While you may feel like you’re powerless to help your child thrive in social situations, there are steps you can take to support the development of your child’s social skills.

Get Down to the Root of the Problem

Social struggles can come in many different forms. Some young children have difficulty with boundaries. They may play too roughly, speak out of turn, or fail to grasp the concept of “personal space,” which can cause others to perceive them as annoying. Other kids struggle with social anxiety which can cause them to pull back in social situations for fear of embarrassment or rejection. Many times, social struggles are neurologically-based and associated with underlying issues.

Encourage Opportunities for Socialization

One of a number of things parents can do to encourage a child’s social development is support involvement in extracurricular activities such as sports, fine arts, martial arts, or school clubs/organizations. These activities provide opportunities for children to meet and engage with peers who have similar interests and establish a social group. For toddlers and younger children who do not attend pre-school, regularly scheduled play-dates and preschool programs like Mother’s Day Out can allow them to develop their social skills before starting grade school.

Explore Social Skills Classes

As the name implies, socialization is a skill. Like all skills, it may come naturally to some and require more effort and practice from others. Just as after-school tutoring programs can help children struggling academically, social skills classes provide a safe, structured environment for children to learn how to interact and engage with their peers to develop and maintain friendships.

It’s Not Just for Kids

Difficulties with socialization can impact your “child” at any age, from early childhood well into adulthood. Without appropriate intervention and support during childhood, social issues can lead to social isolation in adolescence and create a domino effect of difficulties in adulthood. This social isolation during adolescent years can, at times, lead to depression which over time can increase anxiety and inability to develop healthy relationships as adults.

A study led by Joseph P. Allen, professor of psychology at the University of Virginia, indicated that teens who had trouble connecting well with their peers in early adolescence had more difficulty establishing close friendships in young adulthood and managing disagreements in romantic relationships as adults.

As adolescents transition into living independently in college, the ability to connect socially is critical to support them to adapt and succeed during and after college.

At Stone Creek Psychotherapy, we offer social skills classes for all ages from Pre-K to Young Adults. Learn more here!