Friendless Children getting help from Troubled Teen Search experts
By Curtis Reed
At Troubled Teen Search, serving parents of troubled teens seeking a boarding schools for troubled boys and troubled girls, assist the families of the friendless child to be able to build rich relationships and essential communication skills. The lonely child can learn to build a group of strong and healthy friendships that last forever. The child advocates for Troubled Teen Search are equipped to help parents of troubled teenagers. Christian boarding schools, wilderness therapy camps, residential treatment centers, adolescent substance abuse treatment, boot camps, camps and programs for troubled teens. For more information please call 866-439-8112, or fill out the form on the far left column.
At school, on the playground or even in your own backyard, the sight of children playing with their friends is a delight to any parent. But what if your child plays alone? There are many children who do play alone, but not by choice. These children may not make or keep friends easily and end up becoming a friendless child. Fortunately, it doesn't have to be this way.
Peter L. Stavinoha, a pediatric neuropsychologist at the Children's Medical Center of Dallas, says that social success requires a very complicated set of behaviors. "Some of these behaviors are learned, while others seem to be more inherent to the child," says Stavinoha. "For example, some children are by nature more shy than other children. Some children draw negative attention to themselves through their behavior, while others simply withdraw and seem to warrant no attention from peers. Any of these situations can result in a child not developing or maintaining positive childhood friendships."
Peter L. Stavinoha, a pediatric neuropsychologist at the Children's Medical Center of Dallas,says that social success requires a very complicated set of behaviors. "Some of these behaviors are learned, while others seem to be more inherent to the child," says Stavinoha. "For example, some children are by nature more shy than other children. Some children draw negative attention to themselves through their behavior, while others simply withdraw and seem to warrant no attention from peers. Any of these situations can result in a child not developing or maintaining positive childhood friendships."
"I have recently become the stepmother of a friendless child," says Ellen Hunt of Chicago, Ill. "In the two and a half years I have been in her life, she has seldom ever had a friend over, been to a friend's or anything. I would love to know if this is just today's society of driving kids everywhere and too many activities or a sign of something wrong with the child and/or the parent."
Why Some Kids Are Loners
"There are varying reasons for a child's lack of friendship, and it varies even further when comparing child to child," says Stavinoha. "Some kids lack basic social skills such as how to approach another child or how to recognize and turn off those behaviors that annoy their peers. Some children lack basic social interest – this is not very common, but there is a subset of children who simply are not very interested in interacting with others, and they find interaction not rewarding or even anxiety provoking."
Signs of a Friendless Child
It is important for parents to recognize that a child who is having a hard time socially may not come out and say, "I have a hard time making friends – please help me." A parent must be able to read a little deeper into their child's actions and behaviors to find the root cause.
"Certainly some children will complain of being lonely or that no one likes them," says Stavinoha. "And parents can investigate the validity of these concerns, as it is not unusual for a child to occasionally make these kinds of statements during a moment of frustration. However, some kids simply withdraw into themselves without talking about it, and they seem to drop out of many social and family activities. Other children may act out on their frustration with a lack of social relationships. Again, rather than coming out and saying what is frustrating them, they may appear angry, aggressive, argumentative, irritable, etc."
On the other hand, if a child does express verbally why they appear to have no friends, parents should not take what they say at face value. The child may in fact offer a reason or excuse to save face.
"Parents need to also be aware of those kids who rationalize their withdrawn behavior," says Stavinoha. "Most commonly the comments include things such as, 'I'd rather play alone.' While this may be true in some children, others simply make these statements as a way to cover up their lack of social success. While this may be appropriate for a while, there comes a time when the lack of healthy relationships with a peer group can be detrimental to the child."
Many experts, including Michele Borba, an educational consultant and author of No More Misbehavin'(Jossey-Bass, February 2003), share the opinion that the golden rule of parenting a childless friend is that anytime a child is not successfully learning the skills needed for a successful social life, parents should intervene.
"We're discovering that sometimes some kids need more practice and more specific reinforcement," says Borba. "Ideally, kids should learn these skills on their own, but step in anytime they're not using the skill. Not doing so will greatly handicap kids socially."
Model Social Skills
A child learns to talk, walk, eat and play by modeling parental behavior. So it should come as no surprise that modeling is one of the primary methods for teaching kids how we want them to behave, especially with social skills.
"Modeling behavior puts less pressure on the child because they get to see how it's done without taking the risk themselves," says Stavinoha. "The second essential part of modeling is to specifically discuss behaviors with your child after the fact. Too often we assume our kids saw what we did and 'got it.' Rather, it helps to reinforce any behavior if we model the behavior and then specifically discuss this with the child later."
Help your child find an interest and become involved. Often times, helping your child to find a place in the school, the community or even in your neighborhood is just what is needed to kick-start their social skills and help them make and build strong friendships.
"A unique skill that separates a child from the pack can have a huge impact on self-esteem," says Stavinoha. "Children who have a unique skill that is of interest or value to their peers may have an edge in some cases because other children may naturally gravitate toward them. Obvious examples are the star athlete or star student – these kids tend to have others seeking them out for friendship. Pursuing unique skills and interests can also place a troubled teen in a greater frequency of situations in which they are likely to meet peers who have similar interests."
Teaching Friendship Skills
According to Borba these tips will help you teach friendship skills to your child:
- Step 1. Target behaviors that prevent friendship.
The first step is to identify what skills your child lacks that may be hindering him from having friends or being a good friend.
- Step 2. Select and coach new friendship skills.
Choose one or two troubled teenage problems from the above list and replace them with friendship skills. For instance, if she is demanding and uncompromising, then your goal is to teach her how to get what she wants by meeting other kids halfway.
- Step 3. Find opportunities to practice the skill and offer feedback.
Just telling your child about the skill is not enough. She needs to try it out with other children. The best kids for your child to practice with are kids she doesn't already know and who are younger or less skilled. Then keep the practice session short and stand back at a comfortable distance. Evaluate any problems your child might be having in the group and make suggestions only privately – never in front of other kids. Don't criticize what your child didn't do; instead praise what your child did right. As soon as your child feels comfortable with one skill, you're ready to teach another.
- Step 4. Provide better social opportunities for your child to make friends.
There are many ways that parents can help their kids have friends, including: befriending adults who have kids the same age; providing interactive toys, games andsports equipment; teaching how to encourage others and introducing him to a hobby, sport or activity that he can share with other kids.
Don't assume that your child instinctively knows how to build life-long friendships. Some children need a little bit more instruction, example or help in learning how to build these friendships and make them last. "Social skillsare learned," says Borba. "Just make sure you teach them to your troubled teen like a good coach does – he never tells; he shows. Kids need a good model to copy, so be that model to your children."