How to Solve Social Problems at School (page 2)

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Updated on Apr 17, 2014

Starting Conversations

Giving children the language they need to begin conversations can also be helpful in social situations. Zucker says parents can remind children to ask their peers about their summer experiences. Did they go anywhere? Who did they go with? What did they do there? Kids can be reminded that many people like to talk about themselves, and others would prefer to listen. By asking about the other person (asking open-ended questions that require more than one-word answers) the child will soon discover whether the person would prefer to talk or listen. Either way, it’s good practice for beginning a conversation.

Entering Existing Conversations

Entering conversations that are already underway can be difficult for children and adults alike. Parents can help their children develop this skill by reminding them that they can make eye contact with one or more of the kids in the group, think of something to say that relates to the subject, and wait for a break in the conversation before saying what’s on their mind. Another possibility is to ask a question about the subject. Or, the child can approach someone he or she is friendly with in the group and enter into the circle beside this child.


Zucker suggests that parents arrange chairs at home to resemble a classroom or other environment and practice different scenarios with kids. The idea is to make it fun and to encourage children and applaud their efforts. Let the children know that they did a great job in the role-play, and now they just need to do more of the same when they get to school (or the swimming pool, or whatever the social situation might be).

Analyzing Social Situations

Parents can help children analyze social interactions by reading books or watching television shows and then discussing the social dynamics afterward. Nebolsine says this is a great way for parents to casually enter into discussions about socialization with their children. She suggests also that this might be a good opportunity for parents to help their children understand how they’re feeling. By labeling their feelings, kids can more easily recognize and pick up on triggers.

Finding the Nice Kids

Children often try to be friends with the popular kids, but Zucker explains that for children who are having trouble socially, these are the wrong kids to approach. Zucker suggests that parents teach their kids how to look for the nice kids in the class—to recognize cues that a child will be a good person to engage with. Does the child smile a lot? Does the child listen to other kids when they talk? Does the child put an arm around another kid’s shoulders? Parents can help their children spot these indicators over the summer in social situations. See that kid over there? He looks like he might be a nice guy because….

Experiencing Camp

Camp isn’t an option for everyone, but if it is possible, it can be a great way to help children develop socially. Nebolsine explains that elementary school is the time when children really get an idea of who they are. For children who want to make changes in how people see them, camp offers them an opportunity to practice and build their skills. Nebolsine says once children figure out who they want to be, it’s often easier to practice new behaviors around new kids. Maybe she wants to be the funny girl or the really good listener. She can practice this behavior at camp with a whole new group of kids.

It can be upsetting to know that your child is suffering socially. And sometimes it’s advantageous for parents to step back and get a handle on their own feelings before attempting to help their children. This too shall pass!

Lewis suggests the book Raise Your Child’s Social IQ by Cathy Cohen as a good resource for parents who want to help their children with social interactions. Topics include, among others, reading social signals, coping with teasing, and managing stress, and the book provides ready tips for modeling, rehearsing, and giving feedback.

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