Helping Kids Make Friends

By: Behaviorally Speaking

Girls blowing bubbles outdoors

About this Podcast Episode

On this episode, Angela and Kristin invite a guest, Pasha Bahsoun, to join and discuss all things friendships. They break down how to support your child to make new friends, when to jump in vs. hang back at playdates or “hang outs,” how to talk with kids about what makes a good friend, and much more.

About the Hosts

Angela Nelson, Ed.D., BCBA, and Kristin Bandi, MA, BCBA, are Board Certified Behavior Analysts with expertise on human behavior and child development. They spend their days working with parents and caregivers of both typically developing children as well as children with learning, social, and behavioral challenges, or developmental disabilities. This podcast is brought to you by RethinkCare

If you need support as a parent or caregiver of a child, we encourage you to ask your Human Resources team if RethinkCare is a part of your employer-provided benefits.  RethinkCare reaches millions of lives globally through partnerships with top organizations and Fortune 1,000 companies.


Angie Nelson: Hello and welcome to our 30th episode of Behaviorally Speaking. I am one of your hosts Angela Nelson, Board Certified Behavior Analyst and mother of two.

Kristin Bandi: And I’m Kristen Bandi also a Board Certified Behavior Analysts and mother of three, hey Angie how’s it going?

Angie: Hey oh it’s going I’ve got a sick kid home today. So, you know the drill the parent gig.

Kristin: Yeah, you got the double duty.

Angie: Yeah, I know yeah locally. She’s at the age now where she could just kind of entertain herself and watch Tv and do all that stuff. So, my day can kind of continue on. So, we’ve made it out of the oh no I need childcare scramble. 

Kristin: Yeah, I’m almost there except for my third is an absolute wild animal. So anytime I mean if I just leave him alone for a second, he’s just into something so it’s just we I’m not there yet. But you know I’d like to be there one day. Yeah. 

Angie: One day one day ah right well let’s get into it. We have a really, we have a guest, and we have a really great topic today that comes up every day when we talk to parents.  

Kristin: Um oh yes.

Angie: Um so really the purpose for today we you know we get asked questions from families all the time about helping kids make and maintain friendships. How do we make friends. How do we keep friends those sort of things we hear that parents are often. You know concerned about if or when they should kind of jump in and help out and facilitate friendships and kind of social interactions or if they should take a backseat when it comes to these sort of things. So, a lot of stuff kind of wrapped up into this topic. Um we even hear sometimes.

Kristin: So.

Angie: Parents are just worried that their kids might not have the ability to make friends, or they don’t have the skills to do that, so we wanted to come together, and we invited one of our colleagues to jump in and. Yeah and kind of talk about this break it down for us.

Kristin: Yeah, this is a big one I’m really excited about this one I kind of hold social skills you know near and dear to my heart I don’t know if I ever told you this, but I did my um thesis topic on social skills. So, I yeah so I find it to be really interesting and. So, when we talked about doing this one I was like yes this is going to be really good and more specifically like just working with parents and teaching them how to help their kids make friends. so, um so yeah so as you said we have a special guest Pasha hello I don’t know if you want to just give us a little intro or I guess the listeners.   

Angie: Yeah.

Pasha Bahsoun: Hi there.

Kristin: Introduce yourself a bit.

Pasha: Yeah, thanks for having me my name is Pasha I’ve been in this field for 16 years I’m a director of family and clinical services at ah RethinkCare. Um I’ve worked with ah children’s teens and adults on a topic of social skills among other things. And home schools ah group homes. Um and now in in RethinkCare land. Um I designed a social skills curriculum and led social skills groups in my previous position. So, this is one of my big passions in this field.

Angie: Nice. Yes, yes we are.   

Kristin: Yeah awesome. Well, we are very excited to have you here. Yeah so, we came up with some questions and um, so we really wanted to start out just talking a little bit about um ah sorry let me let me rephrase that. I was going to say Angie and I came up with questions and then we didn’t come up with questions, so I had to had to derail there so oz just edit that okay all right? Yeah so, we’re so excited to have you and so let’s just get right into some of the questions that we have for you today I think to start out I get and I’m sure Angie gets and probably you Pasha you get all the time many questions surrounding to know when you should support your child. Um so is there a problem do I should I intervene should I you know how involved should I get and then of course parents might. Sometimes compare their own friendships and maybe how they make friends with their children and if that doesn’t line up then they think oh maybe there’s some challenges here. There’s also I think with parents and when you have multiple kids you know you might compare your siblings together and I get a lot of parents say to me. Well one child does it this way should the other one. Do it that way and really just trying to figure out like what’s normal quote unquote normal um when it comes to or typical when it comes to making friends, so we really wanted to start out there. So, I guess the first question for you is how do we define or how do we understand like what is typical for kids and making friends and then is there a typical guideline that we’re looking for. 

How Do Parents Define What Is Typical for Kids to Make Friends?

Pasha: Yeah, I mean it.

Pasha: Yeah, it’s ah it’s a good question I think a lot of ah parents understandably can fall sometimes into the trap of comparing either siblings or comparing their children to other kids. Um ah the playground or at their schools. Um I start with like the broad question is.

Kristin: Ah.

Pasha: Um to see how your child feels about their friendships or just friendships in general are they happy. Do they see motivated to play and interact with their peers. Um do they refer to their peers and reference positive experiences like fun activities or do they associate peers’ classmates with negative experiences like being teased or being nervous or something like that. Um and think about any of us have different approaches to friendships some of us look back at an elementary school high school college jobs and can name a bunch of people we interacted with but can only identify like a handful of people. We still keep in contact with. But others are like in contact with all those people whether it’s in-person media or whatever but it’s just a matter of what level of socialization works for that individual in this case your child and if that helps them feel like they have a support system they can turn to. And for children and teens it’s someone they can turn to play some video games together go out ah to a meal or come over for a playdate. Um so while everyone again develops differently. We generally aim for our kids and teens to have um some kind of in person interactions with peers outside of the school or extracurricular setting. At least like two to three times a month or so um it’s a little bit subjective but the mindset to have is enough time to ensure that they’re fortifying those friendships while also allowing them time to be independent and not too dependent on those friends that makes sense.   

Angie: Yeah, I like how you use the word fortify I feel like that’s a good That’s a good word to describe this. It’s sometimes you don’t get an opportunity when you’re in school to really fortify or kind of substantiate those relationships and so.

Angie: I Like the idea of you know kind of aiming generally a couple times a month for something outside to work on that.

Kristin: Yeah.

Pasha: Yeah, it’s different for like adults like we um have acquaintances we have friends. We have best friends we have family members. But for kids it’s like either friends’ best friends or just a classmate like their acquaintance as a classmate but we are really trying to hone in on the friends like how do we.  

Angie: Vision.

Pasha: Not only associate. Ah it’s a kid I see in my class but it’s also a friend I can fortify that friendship with that relationship with and associate them with fun things and not just a person I see in math class or what have you.

How to Know What’s Causing a Child’s Social Challenges?

Angie: Yeah, definitely so this kind of this next question goes along with that a little bit we you know a lot of times we hear parents say you know if I see. Ah my kid is having some sort of social challenges. How do I know what’s causing it right? Is there a bigger issue or there is bullying anxiety are they self-isolating or maybe they just don’t have the skills. They don’t know how to approach peers or maybe they’re not motivated. We see that sometimes too kids. Are not necessarily motivated to go and interact with others for one reason or another. So, um what can parents do to determine the cause of these social challenges.

Pasha: Yeah, I mean as always goes without saying there is a concern about bullying don’t hesitate to go to your child’s teacher Principal Support staff. Um that some kids can’t see it as a little bit of tattle telling, but ah better safe than sorry schools have been thankfully more vigilant.

Angie: Yeah.

Pasha: About bullying recent years but it’s still an issue and comes in new form cyber bullying targeted isolation. Um but aside from that we like you said we need to figure out if ah your child has the urge to socialize but hasn’t been able to for whatever reason or if they truly do not want to interact with their peers. Um so some starting points that I usually ah advise parents to take are by asking their kids if they can name any peers in their class or an extracurricular a lot of times kids who self-isolate or play alone. Don’t either remember the names of any peers or even list every single person in their class. Um on the other hand if they’re naming like at least one peer in their class then you can try to dive deeper and ask them if they play together if they can remember what their peers’ interests are which would be great and that’ll tell us whether they’re trying to get to know their peers or if they’re potentially isolated. Um you can also try observing all in an environment like.

Angie: With him.

Pasha: A park or birthday party where you can see if your child plays on their own excuse me the entire time plays parallel to kids and or attempts to interact with peers and reciprocate social interactions If there appears going up to your child and trying to play with them. Ah realistically a lot of kids will play in each of these manners during unstructured time. But if they’re not reciprocating play interactions or isolating themselves then that might be cut or proactive strategies to try to help support them.   

Angie: We can.

Kristin: Yeah I like the idea of you know what you had said, and I usually suggest this one a lot for families is to put them in an environment where you can observe right? because a lot of times we rely so much as parents we rely on social situations from the report of the school.

Angie: Kind of.

Kristin: So sometimes we don’t even see it so we’re like does my child make friends are they interested in making friends and we’re always just we kind of get the information from the school. But if you can pull it out a little bit and maybe do some play dates or you know do any sort of just like unstructured activities with peers go to the playground the park.

Angie: I have.

Kristin: Then you can really see okay where does my child fall and so like you said is it that they’re not interested in playing with their peers or is it. Maybe they don’t know how to approach their peers right? and that can really give you like a nice starting ground. You know you know where to where to begin? yeah.

Pasha: Yeah, it’s such you obviously yeah, you’re both moms your hands are tight in the school setting. We can obviously check in with the teachers to see what’s going on but getting your eyes on your children in different settings is going to give you a lot of information while also being careful to not fall into that comparison trap. We talked about earlier.   

Angie: Um her yeah. Is it.

Kristin: Um yeah.

Pasha: And we’re not inferring too many things, but we’ll delve bore into that in a bit in a couple of minutes I guess

Angie: Um yeah.   

How Far Should Parents Push Their Child When It Comes to Social Skills?

Kristin: Right? Yeah, exactly so moving into a different kind of little bit of a different direction but maybe related another question that I get all the time I think weekly from parents and um you know even myself as a parent trying to determine. Um, how far should I push my child when it comes to social skills right? So how do how much do we intervene like we said in the beginning. But also, if I know that this is might be outside of my child’s comfort zone like do I push them to do it because I know it’s good for them or you know how do we find that balance.   

Pasha: Yeah, good question I get this a lot as well and it’s a tough line of toe and um behaviorally speaking, I’ll see what I did therapy It was biggie a how but big.   

Kristin: Hey love it.

Angie: Ah clever.

Pasha: Our kids haven’t found um the reinforcing value in social interactions and in some cases their behaviors have outright been punished because their attempts to interact have been rejected so they might think like watch I even bother I tried to play with that kid. They said no it always broke.

Kristin: See yeah.

Angie: Since then.

Pasha: When I used to lead social skills groups and a child would tell me Mr. Posh I followed all the steps I found someone I wanted to play with I waited for a pause in the game and then I asked can I play and they said no and I’m like why did they say? no you did everything right? so.

Kristin: Oh yeah.

Angie: And ah.

Pasha: In terms of pushing ah your children getting them outside their comfort zone. Trust your parental gut instinct because we definitely don’t want to make social interactions scarier than they already might seem let alone make them seem like homework like you need to make a friend So if they’re expressing that they would like to play alone for a period of time we want to honor that.

Kristin: Move.

Angie: You know.

Pasha: Kind of self-advocacy but at the same time we do want to try to push our kids to the next level when it comes to socializing that mindset to have is that we know that making friends has been a challenge for them in one way or the other. So. It’s our job to help show our kids that social interactions can be fun rather than a chore. And we want to involve them in the conversation as much as we can when it comes to things like planning play dates having conversations. So, they’re not seeing it as mom, dad, teacher. Whoever are telling you this is why you need to make friends but let’s talk to them to see what the barriers are and also how we can help support them with different strategies.

Angie: Yeah, like that’s kind of a good balance. It’s it is true. It might already be scary, and we don’t want it to become a chore or homework. But yeah, it sounds like kind of you know in involving them in the process and kind of pushing them gently might be a ah a good. Ballot strategy. Yeah.   

Kristin: Yeah I don’t know if this is if we get into this later but one of the things that I usually do when I’m coaching a parent on this I might say something like ask your child to define like who is their perfect friend right? and I don’t like to use the word perfect that often. But if They were to say like this is my ideal friend. What would that be and what does that look like and then that might help them when they’re thinking about well who can I be friends with then if I you know I walk into my class and then look at all these people like what am I looking for and then and then kind of going with what Pasha said. Okay now how do I do that right? How do I found the person. Now how do I actually go up and interact with that person.

Angie: Um yeah, I find that too when I talk to my kids about bullying or they always come and tell me everything that happened, and this person said that, and that person was crying it. You know they just get all up in the social drama.

Kristin: Um yeah.

Angie: And so, we talk about what is a friend. What makes a good friend and I think that um that I think we probably talked about that on another podcast as opposed to me saying you shouldn’t hang out with that person that person’ be and it’s more like well let’s kind of decide for ourselves. What makes ah a person um somebody that or what are the characteristics of somebody that you would want.

Kristin: Yes um.

Angie: Hang out with and that you’d want to grab it to be towards. So yeah so Pasha we have another question for you, and this also comes up quite a bit from families. So, we’re wondering if we can kind of get some ways. Um for parents listening and.   

Kristin: Um right? Yeah exactly.   

How Can Parents Provide Support for Initiating Positive Social Interactions for Their Kids?

Angie: Or they might be able to support their kids if they feel like they need to jump in right? So how can we coach parents to provide some support for initiating positive social interactions for example.

Pasha: Yeah definitely I mean going back to the idea of trying to make those social interactions fun and Preferred. We definitely want to start with baby steps as I’m sure you have ah have heard over the years parents supporting that they tried taking their kids to the park, birthday parties, whatever, classes and are concerned that their kids didn’t make friends at those events in the moment and all those activities should be encouraged. They’re amazing like I mentioned earlier but they’re not exactly setting them up for success especially if they’re already having a hard time with making friends. Um.   

Angie: Here.

Pasha: And frankly people in general those large group settings can be intimidating some adults can enter a social setting like a party or a new job or a class and mingle with everyone in the room they see those settings as an opportunity to interact with others use those little icebreakers even when they don’t know anyone in the room.

Kristin: Ah.

Pasha: And others walk into those situations and might be like wallflowers they until they see someone they know or just kind of wait it out until it’s time to leave guilty. Um so like we as a adult are at or sure covered land aside. Ah yeah and we kind of.

Angie: Um yeah or avoid those times at all costs. Sometimes people are like no yeah.   

Kristin: Um yeah right? or I just don’t go yeah right? and.

Pasha: Have those scripts almost like those canned icebreakers like how’s your weekend. What’s you drinking? Why do we have another meeting today. So, um that’s adults like imagine for kids and teens who already have challenges with that socialization and then we expect them to jump into scenarios and can go mingle immediately. Um so, that being said our first baby step which I usually advise parents to start with will be to work with your kids and teens identify some specific icebreakers surrounding preferred topics whether it’s like video games sports movies. Ah YouTube videos that they ideally come up with in order to identify common interest.

Kristin: And here.

Pasha: They have with a peer and also build their overall self-confidence so those questions can be anything from the basics like what’s your favorite video game to something like did you watch any movies last week do you like basketball. Um I usually advise to avoid broader questions like how are you. Aren’t like bad but they often don’t lead anywhere for kids and teens and even adults ugly compared to like the fun questions. Um you can model and rehearse those with your child by having them practice asking you that question and vice versa then we can prompt them before they go to school or some kind of event by saying something like.

Angie: Over it.

Kristin: Yeah.

Pasha: All right all I want you to do is ask one friend that one question we practice let me know what they say and that’s it. You’re off the hook. So, it’s kind of giving them a very concrete task almost even though we don’t want to frame as a task um come up with this fun question. You tell us what question you want to ask and that’s all you have to do. Um while in the back of our minds. We’re kind of hoping like that kind of flourishes into a natural conversation. But we’re essentially trying to give ah your child that script to you so that when they go to school or some kind of social event. They can ask that question and ah I’m hoping at least finding one peer who likes video games.

Angie: Um yeah.

Pasha: Um and I because I’ve heard so many times that all it took was finding one classmate who likes Marvel or fortnight or whatever and it naturally flourishes into that friendship. It’s kind of that linchpin and then once we get there. Um then we can then our kids can come up with those questions on their own and it’ll show them that they’re capable of talking to someone their age. It can be about a fun topic, and it will hopefully show that peer classmate that your child has that common interest It associates your child with fun things as well.

Angie: Yeah that’s a lot of great tips rolled into a quick little domain sound bite. Yeah awesome.   

Kristin: Yeah I love the idea of setting a small attainable goal right? So, it’s like just do this one thing and then and then you know as parents you can build from there but really the idea here is we’re giving one small thing that they can do and then hopefully they achieve that.   

Angie: In Germany.

Kristin: So, then they’re more motivated so we go back to the motivation to actually interact with peers. Hopefully they go to a peer that that wants to talk and is like oh wow they share the same interests. Everyone’s happy and then we continue to grow that motivation and then they can continue to grow their skills. So yeah.

Angie: Yeah and there’s a confidence builder too right? They’ve practiced it at home in a safe space, so they have kind of a plan in their back pocket, so they’re motivated and they’re more comfortable.

Pasha: Into me.

Kristin: Um yeah definitely. Okay so.  

Pasha: Yeah going back to that reinforcing piece like showing them that you can do this as cheesy as that sounds if you’re capable of it and good things happen. You can talk to buddy about something fun and doesn’t have to be around homework or something boring.

How to Help Children Take the Lead When It Comes to Making Friends

Kristin: Yeah exactly So the next one that we have, and it goes off a little bit into a different direction, but I will tell you that I had this exact question this morning. So, I’m sure many of our listeners are wanting to get some strategies here. So how do we help parents navigate their kids wanting to take the lead so quite Often. We’ll get a lot of parents who might say well my child really wants to be in charge of that playdate and if the or even with siblings. And if that peer is not playing the way that they want to play then we get you know big meltdowns and we see like then maybe that your child is shying away from so social interaction because no one wants to play the way they want to play So How do we help parents in this situation and you know really help them help their kids.

Pasha: Yeah this is like the next level of social interactions Once we have those conversations and we’re going to get a peer over for a play date but it can get into the weed Sometimes like you said ah sportsmanship and all that um ah will I’ll start with like parents ah through no fault of their own or your own. Ah can sometimes think that a play date needs to be this whole afternoon affair with like outings and all that, but I usually recommend I mean both for the sake of the kids and frankly parent stress levels I usually recommend starting with like one on one structured play dates with a peer that your childhood identified ideally. And by structured I mean a play date that lasts like an hour or less is at home ah consists of two to three activities and maybe a snack and that’s it call it a day better to have a short and sweet play date rather than a long and drawn out affair that potentially becomes a negative experience because I don’t know if you’ve seen this as parents but I know from parents I’ve spoken to that. Sometimes the longer a play date goes the more likely that the kids are going to get antsy get tired get stressed out so the more we can cut it short the less likely that that will happen. Um and also keeps them wanting more hopefully um but and to cover our all our bases I’d recommend working with your child to create and write out a schedule of activities for the play date. It can include board games arts and craft screen time if it’s appropriate. You can also ask your child what activities they’re not comfortable sharing with their peers so they can put them away in advance.

Angie: Oh yeah it’s good one.

Pasha: Kind of putting them in charge. Um and it can often be a nice addition. A prompter child to ask their peer What they’d like to play first when they arrive to help them feel a little more welcome. Ah but we’re essentially trying to empower ah your child to create that schedule so they can see that the playdate is an opportunity for fun. Also showing them how they can collaborate with their peer to make it a positive experience for everyone and then hopefully keep them again wanting more so we can schedule those weekly play dates or what have you.

Angie: We are. Um I Love the idea I think it’s a it’s a simple thing to do but I don’t know how many parents actually do this which is empowering your kid to put away a couple special things up in the closet. You know that could alleviate a lot of.

Pasha: Um yeah.

Angie: Potential drama kind playing with my favorite Lego Greesian You know it’s okay just but that way. Yeah yeah yeah but I think that gives like a really good what you describe gives a good framework for parents on how to structure it make it easy I Actually for my kids we typically.  

Kristin: Um right? yes right? I Just got that I don’t want to share? No yes.

Pasha: Yeah.

Angie: I mean I know this isn’t going to be the case for everybody but we live in Southern California so we can go to the park. We don’t have to have someone over or go over to somebody else’s house. It’s a bit more of a neutral ground and you can kind of leave when you need to leave, and you know there’s just less awkwardness I think that way and would go to a neutral spot.

Kristin: Yeah.

Pasha: Yeah that’s what that’s a great point I think the way I view it is when our kids are having a hard time making friends that structured setting at home. It’s a safe space this is where we’re going back to fortifying that friendship and then basically graduating to the park playground a theme park or what have you.

Angie: Interest.

Pasha: So, we’re kind of focusing honing in on those skills in that one on one structured setting and then we can go to that unstructured setting. So, they can you know engage in those play skills in a more natural way and less contrived because it does sound a little like robotic. It can’t ah at the.

Pasha: Ah beginning. But we want to move them to the next level as they get more comfortable.

Angie: Know Yeah that makes a lot of sense. Do it in the comfort of their own home and they one less you know variable you can take out like the anxiety piece. Yeah well cool. Um so moving on.   

Pasha: Yeah.

How Involved Should Parents Be During Their Kid’s Play Date?

Angie: To our next question parents are after often wondering how involved they should be during a play date and maybe a second question tacked onto this is what about when kids get older, and parents are not necessarily ah coordinating the play dates anymore. What does that look like.

Pasha: Yeah that that’s like it was a tougher one. The teens. Yeah I’ll start with in terms of how involved to get It’s a tough line of toe because we want to see your child succeed while trying to make them independent so in the ideal world that we so definitely live in. You’re setting up the play date. Ah you’re doing the schedule you’re reviewing it with them greeting the pier when they come over and then hanging out another part of the house until the play date is over but realistically especially when you’re first starting to practice that skill you’ll likely need to have those periodic check-ins which should be more manageable honestly with the structured play date model. So, if we have like an hour-ish play date and you’re checking in after each activity that would mean you have eyes on your child every 15 minutes or so and not necessarily coming in like how are you? How’s everything going but just literally peeking in um and then if you see or hear that your child is having a hard time or even if the peer is having a hard time.

Kristin: And will.

Angie: Is it.

Pasha: To try to use language like hey can you come help me in the kitchen for one second so you can prompt them give them some feedback um outside of the play date setting. So, it avoids giving them feedback in the moment in front of the peer which can be stigmatizing and make possibly escalate the situation.

Angie: Um yeah.

Pasha: And also, frankly can give them a break like this might be overwhelming even if it’s 20 minutes into play date. Let’s go take a breather and then ah phase back into the play date. Um for the teens everyone I was leading social skills groups when it was because I had my elementary school kids and then the middle and high school groups and play dates.

Angie: This is.

Pasha: Ah the playdate term went away and then we went to get together as in hangouts. Even though I Um ah but in all likelihood war and ah parents aren’t going to be scheduling the get togethers and hangouts for the teens. However, that doesn’t mean that parents can’t use the script strategy. It talked about earlier.

Angie: Um yeah.

Pasha: While also using resources like texting as initial icebreaker before diving into the in-person interactions. Every family has different comfort levels with you know screen time and phones and all that but that can often be if you’re comfortable with it that kind of initiation I know it’s.

Angie: Um living.

Pasha: Ah you know adults when I get a text message we respond. But and someone’s calling me like why? Why are you calling me? Can you just text me so for teens especially going through that phase that screen can be like the safety spot like I don’t have to be faced to face yet. Um so aside from that you can. If. You’re comfortable proactively schedule an event. Let’s say and then ask your team invite someone over for like a movie night. Ah while still having that mindset of pairing that experience with a positive with positive activities. Fun activities so trying to work with your team to facilitate that you can ask some questions like hey we’re going to invite someone over this weekend. Do you want to watch a movie with them, or do you want to go out with them so giving your team that agency essentially is going to go a long way, so they don’t see it as a demand. Um and trying to collaborate with them. But it might take those baby steps like using the script but in text form or in the classroom. Yeah.   

Angie: Um yeah those are great I could see those really being pretty easy to implement. Yeah.   

Kristin: Yeah.This is one I get all the time because I feel like a lot of parents who are in maybe that tween age their kids are so used to those that aren’t.

Angie: Ah.

Kristin: I guess the children that aren’t overly social right? So they’re used to their parents facilitating all the play dates all the interactions and then at some point parents are like well wait a second like I can’t do this forever I need you to take some initiative and what does that look like and how do I do that and that’s like one of the big questions and I think.

Angie: Um interest are.

Kristin: One thing that you said in there would be really helpful is have your child choose who’s coming over right? So, the parent is saying we should have some sort of interaction here. But for the teen or the tween to take that take that on and who do they want to come over might be one way to do that.

Angie: Yeah.

Kristin: And then something else that I actually recommend a lot to families is putting it on the calendar somewhere. So, like you had said Pasha about just sending a quick text message or you know checking in um having some sort of goal for the month one parent that I worked with we had a goal that was respond back to 50% of your group chat messages right? That was the goal like because this this child would just you know and ignore those group chats which I think a lot of adults might do that too. But when they’re in like that group chat. But um but in this case we wanted this child to respond to those messages so that he wasn’t then you know.   

Angie: Um that.

Kristin: Left out of all of the group staff. So just coming up with one goal. Maybe for that child. Um or teen so that they feel more comfortable. Yeah.

Pasha: Yeah I love that I’m gonna steal that one Kristen I think it’s about like framing to them I mean that good better behaviorally speaking that ah negative reinforcement taking out the burden from them. So, okay this month this week whatever we’re gonna send one text ask that one question respond to the chats.   

Kristin: Yay.

Pasha: And then you’re off the hook within our back of the minds hoping that that one text is going to hopefully lead to more text and conversations. But just do this one thing and then you’re done. Um then you could do whatever you need but will need to do within reason. But yeah.   

Angie: Yeah. I like the idea of goal setting. Yeah.

How to Support Children Making Friends Online Versus in Person

Kristin: Yeah so moving into the next question which is I guess probably a little bit more appropriate to our teen population and exactly what we’re talking about. But. There are a lot of families who say that their child is more comfortable developing friendships and talking to peers through gaming and maybe they’re not as comfortable doing it in person and so as parents how do we know? Or how do we support this or do we support this right? So, do we interject? Do we allow it where do where do we go with something like that.

Pasha: Oh yeah oh the lovely the lovely screen time and gaming. It’s another tough one because online gaming is and like kind of H typical and appropriate activity in some cases for like the preteens and teens and like I said every family is different policies around ah the screen times. Um.

Angie: Um yeah.

Kristin: Ah.

Pasha: Ah the screen is that again safety net because right when we get face to face. It can be intimidating so pairing it with a preferred activity like playing video games can be that Balance. So, um but we want to make sure it is equated with some kind of more ah in-person or the. Interactions outside the context of gaming. So, if we’re primarily communicating with others via text but we’re capable quote unquote of interacting with others in person. So, for our kids we need to ask are they ask ourselves. Are they interacting with peers online but also in person or is it strictly online.   

Kristin: Oh.

Angie: This is.

Pasha: And if it’s the latter then that’s where we might need to facilitate more of those in-person interactions. We talked about maybe even centered around gaming I know growing up but what gaming meant coming over plugin in multiple controllers and we’re playing side by side that still exists but not as much um one other flag is to look for as if the peers they’re interacting with online art.

Angie: Yeah, yeah.

Pasha: Actual people they know or are they just online if they’re just online. That’s okay to some extent I mean there’s are there are some ah boundaries we want to set but that’s when we also want to facilitate those more in-person interactions or even online interactions with classmates.

Kristin: Yeah I think that final point is so important, and I never really thought about that but who are they interacting with online right? and not in a way that’s that is scary but in a way that’s like.

Angie: Um.

Kristin: Do they have the ability to then go back to school and talk about talk to that child about the games that they’re playing online because they’re facilitating a relationship online but also in person. So, I think that that’s that is interesting if at least your child is maybe a little bit more timid to talk to people in person right.

Pasha: Um yeah.

Angie: Different.

Kristin: They can maybe start online gaming with some of the kids that are in their class and then hopefully that then leads into more interaction because now they have something to talk about right.

Angie: Yeah share it shared interests. Yeah.   

Pasha: And it can be a tough almost like ah taboo subject that parents understandably get uncomfortable with like I don’t want to talk to my child about their Minecraft or Roblox or Fortnite or what have you?? Um but trying to frame their friendships around that can help them get the buy in from your kids essentially from your teens to see okay mom, dad, whoever are supportive of me gaming so just to a certain extent. Um and want to see how I can make friends using gaming not stop gaming and go make friends so they’re not mutually exclusive even though one can hinder the other.

How Can Parents Help Their Kids Understand Positive Versus Negative Relationships

Angie: Um yeah absolutely yeah well that um this actually gets us into our last question we’re already at the end this has flown by, and it’s been really helpful already I think a lot of good tips here Pasha. So how do we help our kids understand positive relationships versus those that maybe more in the negative influence category.

Pasha: Yeah and you reference a great strategy earlier that I’ll get into but it’s so difficult our kids finally start to have that level of peer interactions. We’re looking for. We had the conversations we had the maybe play date hangouts and all that. But then those peers turn out to be either bullies or just not good matches. Frankly.

Angie: Yeah.

Pasha: Um there can’t be red flags which I unfortunately hear like teasing bullying even financial exploitation. Um even like targeted isolation like your child or they not being invited to invent events on purpose if that makes sense so one way to approach. It is exactly what we talked about earlier is trying to have a proactive conversation.   

Angie: Yes.

Kristin: Yeah.

Pasha: Of what characteristics a friend ah can make up from but also not to ah in response in response to a specific friend just outside the context like hey let’s just have this conversation. What comprises a friend and also what comprises, and I don’t want to say enemy.

Angie: Yeah a bully or someone that you wouldn’t want to hang out with. Maybe.

Kristin: Now right.

Pasha: An unfriend. Um but or not yeah exactly So whether or not you have a suspicion and might just be a good practice. Regardless even if they have a great group of friends. It’s an opportunity for to not only for you as a parent to model how you define friendships but going back to empowerment. How.

Angie: Um yeah.

Pasha: Your child can define friendships for themselves. So then if hopefully not but if they encounter a peer who might not be a good match or is a bully or negative influence. You can then refer back to that list of characteristics that they came up with and asked them hey is that something a friend would do or would say or then you just telling them that peer is not a good friend. Trying to not vilify a peer because also the friends who might or peers I should say who might be bullies or negative influences might be going through stuff on their own, so we want to make to stigmatize them while also protecting your child obviously.

Kristin: Ah.

Angie: Yeah go ahead. Yeah go ahead. Okay I think another point to this is you know one thing that you’re saying that I’m hearing is we want to help kids understand like who’s what’s a good friend right? What does a good friend look like but then I think another sidebar here that I’m thinking about is. Um you know to notice.

Kristin: Helping kids understand like core values of a person. So, a lot of times we might have a child who says or a teen who says that person’s the best they’re so awesome. They skip school every day and you know, and they think that this person is like their best friend, but their values don’t really align, and I think a lot of times parents with older you know teenagers are thinking. Well, how do I get you with all those positive influences and we can’t always I guess choose our children’s friends. But I think if we start even when they’re a little bit younger of saying like let’s talk about our core Values. We’re honest we’re kind you know those types of things. And then that can help the children not only see okay this person’s just mean to me. They’re making fun of me. They’re excluding me but also this person although they might be very nice to me. They don’t have the same values as me and they’re not going to get me very far.

Angie: Yeah that actually that goes in nicely to what I was going to say too I Think when you’re looking when you’re teaching those sort of things those are things that they can take into adulthood whereas if you just say don’t play with that person I don’t want you to play with that person anywhere. They’re mean that doesn’t really teach them skills or teach them how to identify how to kind of make connections with positive people in the future right? And if anything, I know just being a parent of two elementary school kids um parents can be kind of caddie right? So, you can’t control what your kid says for all you know your kid goes to school and says my mom said you’re terrible and I can never play with you again and then you get a whole you know other bag of worms you know from the parents and stuff, and it gets awkward. So yeah I think kind of going with the values going with what makes good a good friend really sets him up for success and teaches them some sustainable things for the future.

Pasha: Yeah and also the more I’ve also see more often than not the more let’s say confrontational parents are with who that they your child should and should or should not be hanging out with the more sometimes that especially the teens will go and say I’m doubling down I’m hang out that my friends.

Angie: Um.

Kristin: Totally.

Pasha: Person just to defy you not like in a malicious way but like what you don’t like this that means I’m going to like them even more, so we want to go back to that collaboration? yep.

Angie: Um for this.

Kristin: Right? They’re just testing boundaries and limits. Yeah well this has been really helpful. Ah so definitely thank you Pasha for being here I’ve learned a lot I know all of our listeners have too. So, thanks so much for coming.

Angie: Yes thank you.

Pasha: Thank you. My pleasure. Yeah I hope that was helpful. Some overall of tips and also getting into the weeds a little bit of why behaviorally our kids engage in these social and social situations.

Kristin: Yeah. All right well, that’ll do it for today. Thank you everyone for joining us on our 30th episode of Behaviorally Speaking. On our next episode we will continue to discuss social skills. We’ll talk about how to help kids navigate social challenges. Until then don’t forget to subscribe to this podcast on your favorite platform so you never miss an episode.

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