Does your child have difficulty with social interactions at school?

Social growth and emotional development are essential components of a holistic learning experience. Kids’ success is impacted by the quality of their social and emotional interactions.

Here are two examples:

Selena is happy and enthusiastic fourth grader. She is among the taller kids in her class. She is a bit shy at times. Earlier today one of her friends called her a mean name. She’s wanted to let it go, but she really couldn’t. By the time math class started, she was completely frazzled. She tried to shake it off and stop getting distracted during her quiz, but to no avail. She went home upset feeling like she had failed miserably.

Matt is a shy fifth grader, who loves to read and enjoys his quiet time. Going to school is making him increasingly anxious every day. There’s a new game at recess that requires that players choose teams. He hates having to choose as much as he hates that he is not being chosen. He would rather sit and read, but he feels pressured to play. Sometimes kids tease his reading. He would rather not deal with any of this. He would rather not go to school.

Think about your child’s life. Can you think of an example where his or her learning, and results were (are) impacted negatively by an unbalanced social interaction?

The types of challenges kids have in school, that we’ve heard over the years include:

  1. Bullying, tormenting, teasing
  2. Pressure to conform: look a certain way, behave a certain way, play with only certain people, have as many things as other people
  3. Loneliness, not being understood, not feeling a sense of belonging, not having any friends
  4. Anxiety, worry, stress, pressure
  5. Feeling ashamed

When our kids get home and we ask, “How was your day?” we want to know what they’ve learned. We don’t expect their days to be filled with emotional and social landmines. Sadly, they frequently are.

Here are our top ideas for ways in which you can help:

  1. Create routine and rituals for social and emotional wellbeing
    A routine example might be writing negative experiences on a piece of paper, or sharing experiences over a walk (action talk works especially well). A ritual might be a dinner conversation about best things that happened during the day.
  2. Tend to your own emotions
    What are they, how do you express them, do you communicate about them, how do you model emotional management?
  3. Get involved
    Ideas include: volunteering in the classroom or after school, helping the teachers after hours, getting involved with PTA. Become the advocate, evangelist, and “guardian” of your child’s emotional wellbeing.
  4. Find allies
    Allies are important because they can help you see, hear, and advocate when you are not around. They can also be your sounding boards and accountability partners. Don’t forget to look for allies within the current school structure, e.g. your child’s teacher, or principal.
  5. Ask your child
    Although they are not always forthcoming, children need to know that we care. One way to show that we love them is by asking them. Encourage openness and honesty. Stay calm and grounded. Remind your child that secrets are not safe.
  6. Learn People Safety skills
    Just like they learn water and fire safety skills, kids need to also learn people safety skills. Take a Kidpower class.
  7. Have a “home-school” learning plan for emotional an social development
    Become your child’s social and emotional teacher. Do assessments regularly. What’s going well, what do you think needs to change? Who can help? What resources can you find? How long do you need to help tend to your child’s emotional wellbeing? (You will need to do this for a long time, although the nature of your support changes.)
  8. Give it time
    Emotional and social development take time. At Hiruko the emotional readiness of a participant is evaluated in the first private class. For older kids and adults, the emotional readiness assessment turns more into a social awareness and readiness assessment. Be sure to visit our blog and join our mailing list to get more personal insights and ideas for helping your child manage social and emotional difficulty with grace and confidence.
  9. Trust your gut feeling
    If you feel something is wrong, trust your instinct. Ask more questions and express how you feel. Ask you child to help you figure out why you feel uneasy. Talk to allies, parents, and teachers and find out what is going on. Become an emotional wellbeing detective and problem solver.
  10. No more “How was your day?”
    Instead consider “What three things did you learn today” and “Tell me about something that happened that felt very good and something that happened that drained you.” Listen carefully and resist the urge to interrupt and fix. Breathe, wait, breathe, listen, and finally problem solve together.

What is your biggest frustration where it comes to your child’s social and emotional growth?

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