Developing strong social skills is critical to your child’s success in school. It can also be very challenging during the first few weeks of a new school year. New classrooms, different teachers, and new friends can ramp up the anxiety this fall. There are many different ways that you might notice your child is struggling with their social skills.

Recognize your child is struggling.

During the first few weeks of school, things can be very hectic at home. Take time to talk to your kids and look for clues. They may tell you they are having trouble making friends, spending recess or lunchtime alone, or struggling to get organized with their new classes. For intellectually gifted children, it may be that they are introverted socially or prefer to be around older children or adults. Talk to them about their love of learning and curiosity. Encourage them to talk to other kids that may have similar interests.

Shefali Tsabary, the author of The Conscious Parent, asks us to be mindful of what our unconscious agenda is for our child and recognize that it may be different from our child’s agenda. Out of love and concern, we ‘want what’s best’ for our child. Because of this, we want them to have the same or better skills that we have that have been helpful to us in life. Since every child is unique, their personality may not need or want the same thing. Talk to your child and get on the same page about their goals for the year. Then you can lean into their strengths to help them develop their own natural skill set

Normalize the situation.

When we are struggling socially or having trouble fitting in, we often believe that we are alone or that we are the only one experiencing what we are feeling. In development, this is called “Imaginary Audience”. Teenagers believe that they are the only ones in the world that are struggling with something. Of course, that is not the case. Empathize with them and let them know they are not alone. Show compassion. Tell them, “It must be challenging to be experiencing that…”Explain that other teens are struggling with their own issues and may think they are also alone. Share your own experiences with them. Encourage them to look at their situation from a variety of different viewpoints by helping them develop their strength of perspective.

Model engaging ways to connect.

You may feel like you want to come up with solutions for them. Instead, partner with them. They are the ones having different experiences every day; finding ways to partner with them and offer encouragement is a healthy approach. Explain to them scenarios you have dealt with at work. “It was not easy initializing the conversation with a co-worker this week, but I ended up getting helpful information from them I would not have otherwise known”. Be curious with them. Ask them, “What would you find most helpful?”  “If you felt more confident in those skills, how might your day be different?” “One of your strengths is……how might you use that to help in this situation?”

Another way to support your child’s growth in this area is to discover with them things they enjoy doing. Getting them involved in activities outside of school can be a great way for your kids to expand on their skills and connect with more and different people than they do at school.

Adjusting socially at school is challenging for kids of any age. Equipping them with the skills they need by identifying and developing their strengths can help ease challenging social issues and help them have a successful school year.