Navigating the Holidays with Children who Struggle in Social Situations
By Haley Hall, B.A.
Learning Specialist & LEAP Instructor
As we dive into the last few months of the year, many families’ schedules are packed with family get-togethers and outings. These events are meant to be enjoyed by everyone, but they can often be stressful and difficult for families with children who struggle with social skills. I’ve put together a few tips to make this holiday season fun and stress-free for all.
Practice Conversations – Help your child successfully converse with others by practicing at home. Family members may ask your child how school is going, and this can be a difficult topic if your child struggles in the classroom. Give your child some ideas of responses, such as, “I really like art class. We’re making nature paintings.” Your child should also practice conversations with the other kids at the gathering. Help your child come up with some general conversation starters, such as, “Are you playing any sports?” or “Do you like video games?” When your child feels prepared for the conversations that may come up, their confidence will improve and they’ll be more comfortable talking with relatives.
Know What to Expect – Give your child a rundown of what the day will look like. Tell them what will be happening when you arrive, who will be there, where they can play, and how long you’ll be staying. If you know ahead of time what type of food will be served, you can share that with your child also. If there will be gift opening, tell your child in advance that they will be opening presents, and remind them of appropriate ways to thank people for the gifts.
Give Options – Most children navigate situations more appropriately when given some options. For example, when getting something to eat, there may be foods that your child isn’t used to or doesn’t typically eat. Give them a choice by saying, “Do you want to try a bite of the turkey or the green beans?” You can also offer options for what your child wants to do while you’re at the gathering. You could say, “Do you want to play with the other kids or sit with me while I talk with your Grandma?”
I hope these tips help your family this holiday season. Remember to praise your child for what they did well after each family gathering. These situations are not easy for kids, so even if it doesn’t go exactly as you had hoped, pointing out one or two things that your child succeeds in will help them feel confident the next time you’re headed to a family event.
Enrichment Therapy & Learning Center has locations in the Iowa City, IA area and Des Moines, IA area. We provide individual speech-language therapy and tutoring as well as offering small group academic programs. At Enrichment Therapy & Learning Center our passion is to help kids achieve effective communication skills and gain academic success. Contact us for more information on how we can help your child succeed.
740 Community Drive, Unit A
North Liberty, IA 52317
5530 West Pkwy, Suite 300
Johnston, IA 50131