The ability to relate to people in a positive and effective way means that a person has good social skills. A child may experience problems with social skills for a variety of reasons. For instance, the presence of ADHD and attentional problems can limit a child’s ability to be aware of how their impulsive behavior may be causing problems in their relationships with peers and adults. Having an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) can interfere with understanding the complex “rules” of social interaction. Anxiety and shyness in social situations can also have a negative impact on a child’s social skills. Regardless of the reasons, research shows that the absence of good social skills is predictive of problems in both childhood and adulthood. Healthy social skills are necessary to form satisfying relationships. The consequences of lacking effective social skills and positive relationships can be long-lasting.
Parents are rightfully concerned when they see their child struggling socially. Children with poor social skills are often isolated, actively ignored, or teased, which can have a negative impact on self-confidence, self-esteem, and general happiness. While many children find recess and lunch to be their favorite parts of the day, children who have social difficulties may dread these times. Hearing children speak negatively about their social experiences is certainly disheartening. Parents often feel helpless in knowing how to help improve their child’s experiences. Parents may initially want to intervene, but are also aware that this may exacerbate the problem in certain situations. It is especially important to talk and determine if your child is being bullied. If bullying is occurring, further steps need to be taken such as enlisting the help of adults in positions of authority in the situation, and teaching the child successful ways to cope with the bullying behavior. In situations where no resolution to the bullying occurs, parents may need to consider withdrawing their child from that situation.
Fortunately, social skills can be improved and research suggests that individuals learn social skills best in a group therapy format. A group setting allows the opportunity to practice skills and also fosters relationships with group members who have similar difficulties. Simply involving your child in more socially-based activities does not necessarily improve the quality of their social skills. In fact, simply increasing the amount of your child’s social activities may only serve to set your child up for more difficulties due to the lack of structured and direct guidance in many typical social situations. Step-by-step coaching with feedback, modeling, and opportunities for practice in a group setting has shown to be the most effective approach.
The staff at Silber Psychological Services offers social skills groups for a wide variety of ages and tailors each group to address age appropriate social issues. The group therapist also meets with parents to discuss the skills that need to be learned or improved. Teachers also may be contacted if needed. Most groups include a check-in time at the start of group, an activity that focuses on building specific social skills, and a snack/social time. Group therapy is a unique and beneficial opportunity to address a variety of social issues. Communication and conversational skills are addressed weekly during check-in, snack, and activity times. While children may be understandably apprehensive about participating in a group at first, after a few weeks, most enjoy being a part of the group. As their ability to make friends improves, children often look forward to group sessions. Our staff is ready to help children improve their social skills and increase satisfaction in relationships using this very effective treatment approach.