A Carefree Childhood May Be Difficult For These Children – But You Can Help

Perhaps one of the biggest challenges our children face is entering new social situations.

Everything is new and scary for young kids when they start a new phase like daycare or school and they are away from what they know and trust.

But sometimes older children and teens struggle in social situations, and it is up to us to dig a little deeper.

Some children are naturally shy or like to keep to themselves, and even many (most!) adults get nervous when they have to meet new people.

The struggle can be much more intense, however, when a child has a special need that others struggle to understand.

Disorders that affect sensory processing and attention can really prevent a child from being able to socialize.  Teachers and peers may not understand – it’s not that these kids don’t want to make friends or be cooperative or polite, they simply don’t come by the skills naturally.

Child Development Institute reported:

Children with poor attention and concentration fail to tune in to the social cues in their environment and thus don’t learn social skills through experience. Children with learning disabilities may have difficulty processing information form the social environment or have difficulty with self-expression.

For these children, it does not come naturally to be social.  They aren’t able to dive in and adapt like other children.  It is frightening for them, and they act in whatever way makes them feel more in control.

Kids affected by sensory processing disorder, attention deficit disorder, or any number of behavioral struggles are often labeled as “difficult” by teachers or bullied or ignored by peers.

But there are a few ways that we can help our children who struggle with the social situations that most kids don’t even have to think about.

As parents, we understand what our children with social disorders struggle with.  We know what techniques work for them.  We know what to do when they are having a particularly difficult time.

You know what your child’s triggers are, and you have likely seen how others react when your child is struggling to adapt.

That’s why it is important to learn everything you can about your child’s special needs and unique circumstances – what works for them and which situations trigger which responses.

And the same goes for your child.  If they are old enough, allow them to give you input on where and when they feel most in need of their “tool kit.”  These tools can be their sensory items, a safe and quiet place to excuse themselves to calm down, or a certain routine they like to complete to give them a better sense of control.

Parenting a child with behavioral disorders is tough.  Be patient with them and be patient with yourself.  Progress is not made overnight.

Be open and honest with teachers or other adults who spend time with your child and let them know everything you know and understand about your child’s struggles.

And it is a good idea to spend some time with the parents of any children your child spends time with on a regular basis.  Give them tips and keep them informed and let them know they can come to you with questions.

If your child is a pre-teen or teenager, most kids this age are very understanding and compassionate when it is explained to them why your child struggles socially.  Allow them to ask questions and give them some background on what types of situations are most difficult for your child and should be avoided.

Above all, stick to a routine that allows your child to feel secure as much as possible.

Discuss changes in routine or upcoming social situations well before they take place and make a game-plan with your child.

Practice different scenarios and experiment with calming techniques your child can do on their own when they are away from home.  For younger kids, this can be done with stories or games.

Equip them with a plan to work through situations that cause anxiety and stress, and make teachers and other parents aware of the plan so they can provide any help your child may need.

They say, “it takes a village to raise a child,” and while it’s hard to ask for help – and even frightening for both parent and child to share this difficult journey with others, it will benefit everyone in the long run.

The bottom line is making sure your child feels secure wherever they go – and for you to feel secure in sending them out into social situations without you.

Do you have a child who struggles with social situations because of a sensory processing or other disorder?  What makes up your “tool kit” for easing the transition?

Leave us your thoughts.

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