RNBC Friendship Groups Support Social Development
By: Adelaide Allen, Ed.M. Educational Specialist
Children who struggle to make and keep friends often have difficulty knowing how to solve conflicts with peers. Maybe they don’t know what to do or say. Maybe they can’t tell the difference between a good solution and a bad solution. Or maybe they are unaware a problem even exists. Skillful social problem solving includes a complicated process that most of us take for granted. You have to identify a problem, consider the perspectives of those involved, generate solutions, consider potential consequences and finally choose the best solution. Some children learn this process intuitively and are almost unaware that a “process” even exisits. They are able to navigate a problem start to finish with success; maintaining and even deepening friendships despite typical arguments and conflicts. For other children this process will break down in more than one place, which can lead to chronic negative interactions with peers and fair-weather friendships.
Our social groups at RNBC follow the I‑SELF (Intervention — Social Emotional Learning Framework) framework; a comprehensive and developmental approach that directly targets social problem solving and related skills. We need to be calm and regulated before we can productively approach a conflict. Children in our Friendship Groups learn how to recognize when they are becoming more active and inattentive. They learn strategies to manage their behavior and calm their mind and bodies. They also practice active listening skills, which makes them more available to learning social skills as well as being better friends to each other. Once children are attending to their social environment properly, it’s important to help them pick up on all the relevant information and make accurate interpretations. They learn to pay attention to nonverbal cues to consider what others are thinking and feeling, which helps them make better decisions about how to interact and decide the best way to approach a conflict. They are also encouraged to be flexible in their thinking and consider alternative explanations before jumping to conclusions. We also focus on the nuances of pragmatic language to help children successfully navigate social problems. For example, being able to initiate and exit a conversation, organize your thoughts and be a thoughtful listener is challenging for children with social difficulties.
The I‑SELF curriculum builds over the course of the school year providing instruction and practice in these prerequisite skills and culminates in the social problem solving model and sportsmanship units. Children are guided to improve cooperative relations and more complex social skills such as sarcasm and humor. Each step of the process is broken down and taught separately and then is modeled as one fluid process through role play and the natural interactions that occur among the children in group. This structured skill development and practice gives children the confidence to solve real conflicts in real time. As the skills become more natural, children are more likely to develop reciprocal and lasting friendships. If you think your child would benefit from our Friendship Groups or would like more information, please contact intake coordinator Nadine Wengroff at 847–763-7944.