Tag Archives: friends

Keep Calm and Play On: How to Help Your Anxious Child Have Successful Play Dates

 

playdatePlay dates are important for both kids and their parents. They help kids build essential social skills (e.g., sharing, problem solving, and conversational skills), facilitate friendships, and improve self-esteem. Play dates can also deepen friendships among parents. However, not every kid will be a natural at play dates. You may notice that when your child is home, they seem comfortable, chatting up a storm, giggling and freely moving about. But during a play date, they may cry, cling to you, and appear generally frozen or tense.

Here are some tips to make play dates more enjoyable and successful for your child. Consider who, what, where, why and how.

Who? Let your child choose who they would like to have a play date with. Giving them choices increases their investment and perception of control in the situation. If they have difficulty selecting a peer, try to give them an option between 2 or 3 children (“Do you want to play with X or Y?”) to narrow down the choices. You can consult with your child’s teacher about classmates who they seem to gravitate towards or play with during recess. I recommend starting with one child, and once they have successful play dates with one child then you can slowly expand to having group play dates.

What? You and your child should pre-select the activities. By doing this, you are giving them some control, familiarity, and predictability with what is going to happen. Children (and adults) have increased anxiety when things are unknown and unstructured. Consider games that your child knows how to play, or activities that are of particular interest for them. Some suggestions include Uno, Guess Who, making bead bracelets, drawing, decorating cupcakes, and gardening. Discuss with them what is going to happen (e.g., your friend will come over, we will start by playing X, and then we will play Y, and then her mommy will come pick her up). You can also make a visual schedule of the activities and the children can cross them off when completed.

Where? Start at your home or another “safe” or comfortable place for your child, such as a local playground. By starting somewhere your child is comfortable, you’ll decrease the time needed for them to warm up. I recommend keeping play dates to an hour. You want it to be long enough for your child to warm up, but short enough to keep your child wanting more.

Why? Although it can be stressful and seem like you need to put in a lot of energy to prepare an hour long play date, it will be worthwhile when your child becomes more comfortable with their peers in a social setting. The more practice your child gets with having play dates, the easier it will be for them, and the less preparation it will take on your part.

How? Initially, parents should provide supervision to help structure the activities and promote comfort. Once you notice that your child has become more comfortable, you should gradually fade away from the interaction and check in as needed. Prior to the play date, you should enthusiastically discuss it with your child. After the play date, focus on the positive aspects. Prepare something fun following the play date (e.g., watching a television show, going for ice cream, or having special one on one time with parent). Most importantly, remain calm, patient, and positive!

NYULMC-2011_2CP_RGB_300dpiFrom the Real Experts at NYU Langone Medical Center:

Brittany D. Roslin, Ph.D., is a clinical assistant professor in the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry  at the Child Study Center at NYU Langone Medical Center. 

Helping Your Child Make and Keep Friends

friends

Friendship is protective—having just one or two friends can make all the difference to a child’s development. Friends increase self-esteem, confidence, and independence. Having friends can also protect children and teens from bullying and victimization, and help buffer the impact of stressful life events.

But for some children and teens, making and keeping friends isn’t easy. Whether due to anxiety, ADHD, autism, or developmental disabilities, some lack the confidence and social skills needed to make a phone call, join a conversation, or play team sports. They may not pick up on verbal and nonverbal cues or empathize with others’ perspectives. And the consequences can be considerable: loneliness, depression, anxiety and isolation. This inevitably spills over into life transitions, including college, dating, and finding and keeping a job.

Fortunately, these skills can be taught. One place to start is building conversation skills including trading information with the goal of finding common interests, sharing conversations, and building awareness of nonverbal communication skills such as making eye contact and having good body boundaries. Another starting place is helping children and teens to choose appropriate friends by identifying a peer group and identifying extracurricular activities to find sources of friends who share common interests as a basis for building friendships.

The Child Study Center at NYU Langone Medical Center conducts social skills classes for children as young as three through young adults up to age 30 to help teach these skills. Our clinical faculty and staff use evidence-based interventions, the Children’s Friendship Program for elementary school children, and the PEERS® program for teenagers and young adults. The children, teens and young adults learn skills through in-class rehearsal and homework. It is a class; it is not a place to make friends, but a strategy on how to make friends in their real, outside lives.

The classes are developmentally appropriate for each age group. The youngest children learn how to play in groups. Elementary school children practice face-to-face conversations, make phone calls, and learn how to handle rejection. Older teens learn dating skills—how to ask someone out, how to behave, and what behavior is acceptable. All groups have homework, which involves practicing their new skills. This homework helps children gain confidence and solidify their new skills.

Parent participation is integral to the program’s success. In separate, concurrent classes, parents learn the language and skills being taught to their children—a requirement that not only enables them to help their children with homework, but also gives them the tools to be social coaches long after the program is over.

Each group meets weekly, for 60, 75 or 90 minutes, depending on age.
•Preschoolers attend 60-minute sessions for 15 weeks.
•Elementary school children between the ages of 5 and 8 attend 75-minute sessions for 12 weeks.
•Elementary school children between the ages of 9 and 10 attend 75-minute sessions for 14 weeks.
•Teens from 11 to 17 attend 90- minute PEERS® program classes for 14 weeks.
•Young adults with autism from 18 to 30 attend 90-minute PEERS® program classes for 16 weeks.

We perform an initial screening of all applicants and then meet with each child and parent to see if the child is appropriate for the group. Minimum requirements include approximately average cognitive and verbal functioning; a parent willing to participate; English language knowledge; and the child’s expressed interest in making and keeping friends.

Manhattan groups are conducted at One Park Avenue, 7th floor, New York, New York 10016. For more information, please call 646-754-5284 or email csc.sociallearning@nyumc.org.

For group offerings at our Long Island campus in Lake Success, please call 516-358-1808 or email Bonnie.Schwartz@nyumc.org.

NYULMC-2011_2CP_RGB_300dpiFrom the Real Experts at NYU Langone Medical Center:

Sarah Kuriakose, PhD, is a clinical assistant professor in the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and the clinical director of the Autism Spectrum Disorder Clinical and Research Program at the Child Study Center at NYU Langone Medical Center.

Sarah Kern, LCSW, is a clinical assistant professor in the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at the Child Study Center at NYU Langone Medical Center.

Lonely Only Child? Not So Much-Thanks to Kids’ Classes and ….

Lonely Only Child? Not So Much-Thanks to Kids’ Classes and ….

Mykaela (in the front) with her dance class friends.

 

*Mykaela (in the front) with her dance class friends.*

Gymboree Throwback! Mykaela 8 months!

I grew up as an only child. I was not spoiled. I did not think the universe revolved around me. I absolutely was not lonely. Those are the general stereotypes of only children, and like many stereotypes there is some basis to it but it has been grossly overgeneralized. The biggest stereotype is the one about being lonely. People who are not onlies seem to think that only children spend mass amounts of time brooding in their rooms wishing they had siblings. Nope. I played in my room just fine with all my stuff uninterrupted and never had to worry about anyone whining because I wouldn’t share. My books were mine, my video games were mine, and all my stuff stayed where I put it. When I wanted to share and have social interaction I had other little people called friends. Friends are awesome! I could play with them when I wanted to be around people, and when I didn’t want to I could stay home and enjoy my alone time. Friends are like siblings outside of the house so I had the best of both worlds. While other kids complained about how annoying their siblings were or how one got more attention than the other, I was quite smug about the fact that I did not have those problems. Not only were my possessions all mine, but my mom was all mine too! There was no scheduling alone time with mom. There was no “not right now Cassaundra, Mommy has to take care of BrotherSister.” Nope! I shared my mom on school trips or if I invited a friend to come along on an outing. Ok, so maybe a little spoiled, but not in the stereotypical only kid way.

When I started getting to the age where I thought about having a family, I thought I’d have more than one child. Not because I didn’t want an only child for fear of loneliness, but simply because I wanted a boy and a girl so I could play football with one and dress up the other. Loneliness never crossed my mind. When I became pregnant with my daughter the whole story changed. I was diagnosed with a very rare neuromuscular condition several years ago and the rate of passage is 50%. That means I had a 50% chance of passing this thing on to any child I have. I had an amniocentesis done, she did not have it. I also had the absolute worst pregnancy ever, and I was 33 when I gave birth. Listen, I don’t know about you, but to me all that screamed loud and clear ONE AND DONE! I am also not the most patient person in the world and I honestly never, ever, ever, ever, NEVER want to go through the toddler stage again! She is just about 3 and I have discovered gray hair, I have bags under my eyes, and sometimes I really feel like I’m going insane! Again, ONE AND DONE! Many people have tried to convince me that I need another child. She is going to be spoiled they said. She needs someone to play with they said. And here we go, she is going to be LONELY they said. Not so much.

My daughter is absolutely NOT lonely. She has me and seriously, I am awesome company! Aside from me, my daughter also has been in playgroups and classes with other children since she was 8 months old. We started out at Gymboree where she spent a year in music and gym classes. We had unlimited classes so she got to attend multiple times a week. I would also take her to just about every kid activity I had time for so she was exposed to other kids early on. At a bit over 2 we enrolled at the Harlem School of the Arts for Tiny Moves dance classes where she is currently finishing up her second semester. She made tons of friends there. I think the best thing I did was enroll her in those classes. They taught her to share, how to behave with other kids, how to make friends, and how to be a friend. I have recently signed her up for group piano lessons through Kidz Central Station and I am looking into other classes as well. I have been using Kidz Central Station for awhile now and I love it! Being able to search for classes that are in my budget is awesome, because as a single mom budgeting is really important. I have found many trial classes, free classes, and low cost classes for my daughter to attend. She has all the social interaction she needs without having a sibling. My daughter may be an only child, but she is definitely not lonely.