When it comes to the social aspects of your child’s life, chances are, the first thing that comes to mind is socialization. How does my child get along with others? Who are my child’s peers? How does my child’s maturity level and emotions fit his or her age?
While these are excellent questions to ask, they only touch on the beginnings of social thinking. Social thinking is also about processing thoughts, emotions, and words of yourself and others in order to understand what’s happening—in all aspects of his or her life.
Strengthening these skills, then, is invaluable as they help your child function in the classroom, at home, and with others. Here’s how you can help your child with his or her social thinking (and why you should):
1. Learn your child’s emotional intelligence levels.
Intelligence isn’t just about ‘book smarts’ or your child’s academic levels. There is an aspect of intelligence that solely relates to emotional—and this plays a huge role in social thinking. Depending on your child’s unique needs and struggles, he or she may be at an emotional intelligence level that is different than his or her age. This can create problems, especially as your child gets older and tries to interact with his or her peers.
Knowing where your child ‘fits’ in terms of his/her emotional thinking can help you understand why he or she behaves a certain way or even seems more immature than peers. When you have an understanding of this, you can better support your child’s needs.
2. Create appropriate playdates and opportunities to practice social thinking.
A huge aspect of social thinking is self-regulation, meaning how you learn to control and manage your emotions. When this comes to playdates or non-academic tasks, this can be extremely important because how a child reacts to his or her peers can either make him/her feel a part of the group or excluded.
It’s important, as a parent, to facilitate appropriate playdates and opportunities to practice social thinking skills, especially if your child is emotionally behind.
3. Ask scaffolding questions to prompt conversations about others’ perspectives and differences.
Scaffolding is a process that points a child to a desired answer in a way that encourages independent practice and thinking. It’s a great way for you to foster social skills and awareness naturally, too, without it feeling like a ‘lesson.’ When you engage your child in conversation about someone else’s thoughts or ideas (especially in the context of disagreements or even arguments), you will give him or her the opportunity to ask questions and become more aware of others.
This can help your child learn to see outside of their ‘bubble’ and translate these explanations and time with you to the conflicts they face with their peers.
4. Expand your child’s cultural horizions—in and out of the classroom.
Beyond working on social skills with peers and appropriate people (like teachers, for example) social thinking should also include opportunities for cultural and historical references, too. Whenever possible, teach your child about issues in the world. Take time to look back through history and explain significant moments, like slavery, for example.
The more your child becomes aware of the world around him or her, the better prepared he/she will be when the opportunity for conversation or conflict arises.
At Banyan Tree, one of our focuses is social thinking, and helping our students learn necessary and relevant skills to be able to engage with others appropriately, in all contexts.
If you want to boost your child’s skills or are looking to enroll him or her in an intensive one-on-one Educational Therapy program, contact us or give us a call at (858) 367-5428!