Center For Pediatric: Helping Children Navigate Friendships

Kids Health The Newsletter About Taking Care Of The Ones That Matter Most

“Notice Any Challenges In Your Child’s Social Life?” HELPING CHILDREN NAVIGATE FRIENDSHIPS


As adults, it’s easy to recognize the importance of hanging out with friends. Friends boost our self- esteem, enrich our experiences, and provide moral support when life gets tough. From the standpoint of developmental milestones, making friends is equally as important (if not more so) than earning an A in school. Yet for many kids, learning how to make -- and maintain -- friendships is a skill that takes constant refining.

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Kids Health The Newsletter About Taking Care Of The Ones That Matter Most

“Friendship Is A Great Way For Your Child To Learn About Collaboration!” HELPING CHILDREN NAVIGATE FRIENDSHIPS

For some children, fitting in is a struggle. Cornerstones of childhood interaction, such as taking turns or engaging in pretend play, eludes them. This can be especially true for children who have special needs. For those who face developmental, physical, or emotional challenges, social skills may not come naturally. Though parents and teachers can’t make friends for children, there are ways to help kids develop and build social skills -- both in and out of school. If you know a child who has a difficult time making friends or winds up getting rejected by their peers, here are some useful tips to help. Act as an Emotion Coach Though everyone experiences negative emotions and selfish impulses, keeping these in check is important to making friends. Research shows that when parents and teachers speak to children about emotions in a empathetic, problem-solving manner, kids form better emotional self- control. This, in turn, leads to stronger socialization abilities on the

playground, during playdates, and in the classroom. On the contrary, children whose are often punished for strong emotions (“Just go to your room to cool off”) or have their emotions trivialized (“You’re being ridiculous”) tend to struggle with self-control. This, in turn, leads to greater difficulty making and sustaining friendships. Keep Playdates and Hang Time Short When children of any age are just getting to know one another, it’s best to limit their together time to one or two hours during a playdate and far shorter times in the classroom. Although there’s a risk that the time together has to end when things are getting fun, it is far better to cut activities short than have them linger too long. Much longer than that and there’s a high risk of arguing, which will just leave everyone reluctant to try again.


Practice Kindness Encourage children to engage in small acts of kindness. This may be hugging a friend who is sad or lending a pencil to a classmate who lacks one. Kindness tends to beget kindness, which is a great way to start a friendship. That said, Psychology Today issues some warnings about being overly or inappropriately kind. When children try to buy friends through giving gifts or money, it is often not reciprocated. Instead, the receiver may lose respect for the giver if it keeps happening, as this behavior wreaks of desperation rather than kindness. For this reason, it’s important for teachers to keep an eye on how friendships are being made and for parents to be aware if money or valuable toys go missing. It’s also worth noting that kindness is defined by its impact, not its intent. Some children go overboard by being excessively affectionate or insisting that a peer only hang out with them. Neither of these are apt to go over well, and instead act as a deterrent to friendships. Build Hang Time Around an Activity The surest way to playdate failure is having bored kids. To avoid this, plan the hang time around a fun activity, such as splashing in the wading pool, making individual pizzas, or playing a board game. Bear in mind that mainstream kids will likely enjoy all of the activities that children with special needs enjoy, so this can be a win-win all the way around. In the classroom, try to ensure that all kids have a role in group work and that there isn’t too much time just spent sitting without work. As a child navigates the world of friendships and disappointments, expect the occasional heartache (for both of you). Also recognize that children have different ways of engaging, including parallel play. Realize that a child may be an introvert as well, which means that friendships are important, but so is down time.

Staff Spotlight


Cindy Hayes, PT is an Early Intervention Physical Therapist at the Center for Pediatric Therapies in Danville, Virginia and surrounding counties. She worked for CPT for 9 years from 2002 to 2011 and rejoined our team in September 2015. Cindy has over 30 years of experience as a Physical Therapist in a variety pediatric and adult settings including United Cerebral Palsy in California and Washington State, Pediatric Oncology at City of Hope, and Halifax, Pittsylvania and Campbell County Schools and Early Intervention. She helped to found Danville TOP Soccer for children with special needs.

Cindy holds a Bachelor of Science in Health Science and PhysicalTherapy fromCalifornia State University of Northridge, where she graduated Cum Laude. She has pursued many advanced trainings and certifications, including: CranioSacral Therapy, Muscle Energy, Strain- Counterstrain, Advanced Manual Pediatrics, Hippotherapy, Progressive Casting and Splinting for Neuromotor Dysfunction, NDT, Functional Gait Biomechanics and Abnormalities, and Advanced Wound Care. Originally from Los Angeles, California, Cindy now lives in Danville, Virginia. Outside of work, Cindy enjoys camping, hiking, scuba diving, quilting and scrapbooking. Cindy enjoys spending time with her husband of 30 years, her three grown sons and their families.


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