• Facilitating Social Success

     

    How Parents Can Facilitate Social Success for Their Children

    As children grow, their relationships with their peers become increasingly influential in their lives. Children's friendships not only provide a foundation for later adult relationships, they also buffer children from stress and lessen the risk of later emotional and behavioral problems. When children are socially successful, their friendships area source of well being, pride, and identity.

    How to encourage social success:

    Parents play an important role in the social lives of their children, both directly and indirectly. This eventually becomes a supporting role, with children taking center stage and parents quietly providing the necessary elements--rides to the mall, brownies at a sleepover, or consolation after a negative experience. The following are some general guidelines for encouraging social success:

    • Use parent-child and sibling relationships. Research has shown that warm, trusting family relationships lay the groundwork for healthy social development in children. Use the ups and downs of family interactions to teach important social lessons.

    • Practice what you preach. Model positive social skills by sharing how you handle arguments, hurt feelings, and misunderstandings as they occur. Children look to their parents' behavior to help them understand new or confusing situations.

    • Get to know your child's friends. Offering to facilitate social encounters for your child or teen can provide natural opportunities to get to know his or her friends. You don't need to overstay your welcome--moments in the car, in a restaurant, or at an amusement park can really add up.

    • Listen first, talk later. Listen to your child's complaints about his or her peers with genuine interest, and resist giving advice before your child feels understood. Knowing how to handle teasing or rejection doesn't necessarily make children feel better. Being heard and understood just might.

    • Praise, praise, praise. Go out of your way to praise your child's treatment of others. Statements like, "I love the way you kept calm when your sister was yelling at you," or, "It was nice how you invited Jake to the movie," actively reinforce your child's respect and caring for others.

    • Explore a variety of social settings. Trouble connecting with schoolmates is often due to a mismatch of personalities or interests. Introducing your child to new and varied social circles like team sports, clubs, or youth groups may provide for a better social "fit."

    Summary

    Children's social lives are complex and varied and there are many ways to be "successful" socially. Some children feel most comfortable with one or two close friends, whereas others prefer to be part of a large social network. Most children eventually find their niche and are able to achieve their social goals. With the right mixture of empathy and involvement, parents can aid greatly in this process.

    Written by Timothy Verduin, Ph.D. of the NYU Child Study Center.