Social Coaching

Parental Involvement

Parents who become involved in their children’s social lives have an opportunity to teach social skills and can make a major difference in helping to solidify friendships.  They can:

Provide Social Opportunities – if your child is not invited to many social events, then the parent has the ability to invite others to socialize with their child. For some kids, it may be necessary to forego the typical reciprocation that happens between friends where they take turns having play dates at each other’s homes. If your child is not getting the reciprocal invitation, try not to let that stop you from having the same child at your home again and again. Remember that it’s more important that your child have solid friendships than who does the inviting. Some families may not be reciprocating for reasons other than their child doesn’t want to play with your child. Everyone is busy and it takes effort on the parent’s part to schedule play dates until children are old enough to make their play dates.

Practice Social Skills with Family Members – Try some of the ideas mentioned in this segment at your next family gathering. Better to make social mistakes with family members who are likely to be more forgiving than potential friends. Fine-tuning social skills with family members is a great place to start!

Coach Your Child Prior to a Social Event – Children who don’t understand what is acceptable behavior during a social event may need to be reminded prior to attending. Children need to understand what the expectation is so they will know how to interact. For example, “Jimmy, be sure to say hello to Uncle George when you see him at Grandma’s house.”

Coach Your Child During a Social Event – Even if appropriate social behavior is discussed in the car on the way, children may need an additional, but gentle, reminder once they arrive somewhere. The excitement of being there or the anxiety over having to socialize may make it hard for children to remember the expectation. Continuing with our example, “Jimmy, did you have a chance to say hello to Uncle George? It’s been so long since he’s seen you.”

Review Social Conduct After a Social Event – Starting with the interactions that went well, praise your child after a social event and give gentle suggestions for next time. “Jimmy, I loved how loudly and clearly you said hello to Uncle George. Next time try to look him in the eye while saying hello. You know how he loves to talk with you about baseball. Great job!” With this approach, you are leading with a positive comment, suggesting an improvement, giving him something to discuss next time so he will say more than just hello, while ending with praise. The next time Jimmy will see Uncle George; you could remind him again about using baseball as a conversation topic and repeat the process.

Group Play – if one-on-one social interactions are difficult for your child, consider group activities. Your child may still have a great time, but the pressure of one-on-one interaction is lessened. Also, if other children are reluctant to play with your child, they may be more apt to play in a group. This may provide an opportunity for the other children to understand your child’s personality and make them more willing to include him or her in future get-togethers.

Provide a Structured Activity – If your child has a friend over and they are having trouble finding a play rhythm, try suggesting a few activities for them to do or even something with you. When this topic was discussed with well-known psychologist and author, Dr. Teresa Bolick, her response was to have great cookies recipes on hand! She suggested having all types of cookie recipes on hand in the event that a playmate has food allergies, diabetes or other medical issues that may baking problematic. Use Hand Signals – if you see your child repeating a common social mistake with a friend, a hand signal can send a message that a mistake is being made without embarrassing the child. For example, a child that has trouble with getting too close and invading personal space, a simple hand signal from an adult can be a reminder to give others more space.

Try to Find Others Who Have Social Difficulty – Try to Find Others Who Have Social Difficulty – The phrase “birds of a feather flock together” may apply to your child when socializing. Some kids have interests and passions that are unusual or very specific. Try to find other kids with similar interests and even challenges. Your child may find comfort in someone who is similar to them.

Guide Fantasy Play – some children have difficulty creating their own play scenarios and need guidance to get started. Caregivers can set up scenarios for play or a fantasy to be acted out.
Scavenger Hunts – scavenger hunts are a great way to engage children of nearly all ages! Caregivers simply write down clues as to where to find the next clue and so on. The last clue can lead them to a special treat or prize. Younger children’s clues can be very specific to avoid frustration (ex. Look under the couch cushions) while older children may enjoy more abstract clues (ex. Look where we relax to enjoy movies).

Scavenger Hunts – scavenger hunts are a great way to engage children of nearly all ages! Caregivers simply write down clues as to where to find the next clue and so on. The last clue can lead them to a special treat or prize. Younger children’s clues can be very specific to avoid frustration (ex. Look under the couch cushions) while older children may enjoy more abstract clues (ex. Look where we relax to enjoy movies).

If your child experiences social challenges due to a disability, click here for additional suggestions.

Simply Social Kids Consulting

It all started with a chat….

…with first and second graders at my daughter’s school. When she was in second grade, some of her classmates started to really wonder why she seemed different from them. I decided to come in and speak with the class about Down syndrome to provide an explanation as to why she looked a little different, talked a little different, and needed extra help in class and so on. In preparation, I wrote down my thoughts and decided to explain the genetics of Down syndrome and the impact the extra chromosome had on my daughter. The talk explains chromosomes, low muscle tone, and general information regarding developmental disability at an elementary school level. Given that my daughter learns best with a multi-sensory approach, I developed the talk to include visual, tactile, and auditory components. Parents and educators were invited to attend the chat. Additionally, a written version of the chat and a letter to the parents of the classmates was sent home so the parents would know how Down syndrome had been explained to their child.

The outcome was surprising to me. Several parents and educators attended the first two chats and approached me afterwards with tears in their eyes and gave me hugs while thanking me. I heard comments in person and via e-mail thanking me for the “beautiful talk” and comments like “I can explain my brother’s developmental disability to my daughter now that you’ve given me the tool” and “I’ve shared the written version of your talk with family and friends”. Most importantly, the children understood and loved that I had come in to talk with them about their friend and classmate. While the chat explained various aspects of developmental disability to the children, the underlying message of the talk was to empower the children to help my daughter be a better friend by helping her with her social skills.

Since the initial chat, I have given the talk several more times and have consulted with families and school systems to customize it for each child’s individual need. The talk was the beginning of my new venture, Social Smart Kids ( Social Smart Kids name changed to Simply Social Kids in 2013.  We offer consulting service offers a similar chat for your child’s situation. Each chat is customized given your child’s personality, disability, and school environment. The consulting service includes a consult with parent(s), child if appropriate, educators, and anyone else who has knowledge of the social dynamics at school and can speak to the specific social challenges the child is experiencing. The final step in the process is a presentation to the class followed by a question and answer session (if located in or near Massachusetts).

For more information or to schedule a chat for your child, contact Nadine Briggs at


Personality Profile Form 2015

Coupon Incentive System

Social Smart Kids Autonomy Checklist

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