Monday, July 2, 2012
When attending social gatherings with your children, there are things that you can do to prepare them as well. For instance, if you are about to go to a family dinner and your child’s goal is to use appropriate greetings, then first model the behavior to your child. Second, rehearse the behavior and “act” it out with your child using tools such as puppets or role-plays. Third, once your child has practiced and the child attends the event, reward them for any small accomplishments that they may have made.
If your child is sensitive or easily over-aroused, (again a type of temperament), then make sure that you work with this. Expose this type of child slowly to social situations. Prepare him or her for any uncertainties and recognize when he or she is becoming over-aroused. The only way to prevent over-arousal in social situations is through careful planning and being on step ahead. State your realistic standards for your child prior to the event. Again, you should prepare your child through visual strategies. Teach your child to warn everyone when or she has reached their limit. Teach self-calming techniques to prevent this from happening in the future.
A child who has a particularly intense or sensitive temperament may experience spill-over tantrums. A spill-over tantrum can be defined as an outpouring of emotion in a disorganized way. This type of child needs a parent’s direction to help them calm their body down and regain self-control. Often, after a social situation, these children need down time or need to process the day’s events with a parent. Make sure that you ask a sensitive child how their day was once they are ready to talk. Sometimes, as a parent, you can anticipate emotional reactions and offer advance empathy. After the tantrum, acknowledge to your child any bits of self-control that they did portray. Remind your child that emotional reactions are a choice.
Often children with sensitive or intense temperaments need soothing or calming activities after a social situation. Some calming activities may include water (bath time); Activities that involve using their imagination, which gives them a chance to process the day’s events (They may act our skits or stories.); Sensory activities (Play-dough, silly putty, marbles, sand, pom-poms, cooking). Often children are soothed by activities that allow them to touch, smell, taste, hear or see things; Reading (May be used to diffuse some children’s intensity); Humor; Time-out (not as a punishment, but rather as a safe place to calm down physically and mentally).
If you find that your child is still struggling socially despite all of your preparation and intervention, perhaps he or she would benefit from some professional help from a therapist or from a social skills group.
Natasha Edelhaus is a Marriage and Family Therapist in Stoughton, MA. She works with individuals, families and runs social skills groups. She can be reached at (781) 708-4504.