Getting Social This Summer

Cgonley/ June 19, 2012/ Special Features

Summer is officially in full swing.  With school out, many children who are less social miss the opportunities for daily interactions that school provides.  Children who face social challenges need assistance all year long, but particularly during this time of year.  Encourage your child to engage others during the summer months.  As parents, there are things you can do to help your child maintain or develop social connections.

This is a good time to consider extracurricular activities that tap into a particular interest of your child’s, so as to increase the likelihood of her/him connecting with a likeminded peer.  A glance at a local park district brochure revealed offerings in Lego robotics, magic for the Harry Potter fan, cooking, as well as various other physical and artistic endeavors.

Play dates need to be well thought out to help children be successful and enjoy themselves.  These are a few strategies to consider:

     Schedule for a time during which you will be home and available. 

     Help your child prepare prior to the play date. 

  • Suggest that s/he put away any “special” toys that s/he would rather not share, so    as to avoid any potential conflict. 
  • Help your child brainstorm possible activities that would be of interest to his/her friend

     Check with the guest’s parents in advance regarding foods that the child can eat

     Keep the time together brief and structured, e.g., two hours with play time, snack, new activity

     Be available during the play date to facilitate negotiation. 

For younger children, or for children who tend to get disorganized and/or emotionally dysregulated:

  •      Provide assistance with structuring the play date.  If necessary,
  •      Divide the time into 15–30 minute increments,
  •      Change activities as needed. 
  •      Have a snack on hand to provide as a break

A play date at home may be too stressful so an outing may be preferred. Consider a trip to one of the many museums in the area, the beach, or amusement park. A good resource is local papers, or community centers for offerings of events that may be appealing for both children.  For those who enjoy a more physical activity, options include miniature golf, batting cages, or swimming. 

 Assisting in maintaining a sense of social connectedness will help ensure that, within the social domain, your child will continue to grow, feel successful, and have fun!

Nadine Wengroff, MS, CSAPN is an Advanced Practice Nurse as well as a Clinical Nurse Specialist in Child and Adolescent Mental Health Nursing.  She coordinates and conducts many of the social development groups.

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