They’re not sure of
how to make and keep friends.
Here’s how you can help your middle schooler fine tune her social graces:
• Be realistic. Children can’t have perfect social skills all the time. Expecting too much can deflate a child’s self-confidence.
• Honor your child’s style. If your child isn’t a social butterfly, don’t force her to go to parties. Help her connect with a few friends at a time.
• Set an example. Tell your child about conversations you’ve had that resolved problems. Share how you felt and how you think your friend felt.
• Don’t “grill” your child. When a child has friend problems, ask open-ended questions like “How did things go today?” This opens the door for your child to discuss and work on bad social habits.
• Explain empathy. Talk about the characters in books or on TV. Discuss what makes them cry, worry, lie or run away.
• Build an emotional vocabulary. When your child appears hurt, happy, sad or nervous, say so. When children can name their reactions, they can better read how others feel.
• Read faces. Help your child tune in to non-verbal messages. In a public place, talk about how people might feel based on their body language.
• Teach the “art of a deal.” When your child is struggling with another, help her explore options. Stress that many things don’t have to be “either-or.”
• Praise social actions. Praise your child when she arranges a meeting with a friend or apologizes for hurting someone’s feelings.
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