Everyone wants a friend and we all have different ways of making connections and developing relationships. Some people may believe that friendships happen by chance, however, what we know is that parents play a vital role in developing and building friendships. Many relationships are formed during childhood through parental arranged activities with peers.
Believe it or not supporting the creation of friendships begins in the home. Parents who take an active role in making sure that their children are involved in a variety of social activities enhance their children’s opportunity for friendship. It is healthy for parents to set up play dates and take an active role in monitoring peer interactions. In fact, research shows that those children who are encouraged to be with others from an early age, have more closer and stable relationships later in life.
As a high school special education teacher, I believe the most common concern that I hear from parents is that their child has no friends. This is heartbreaking and parents and teachers can help to both guide and foster healthy relationships.
Since building and making friendships is not easy, both parents and teachers need to take an active role. Arrange for your teen to meet others socially. Explore and encourage the teen to join clubs on campus. If there is a student body association on the campus have the student join. Encourage and get assistance for arranging activities outside the classroom: meeting classmates at sporting events, attending dances and other social activities. Develop social goals on the teen’s IEPs that involve activities with others in the community.
Strategies for developing friendships begin with knowing what it is that the teen wants from a relationship. Ask your teen, what is it that he/she is looking for in a friendship and develop candid IEP goals around this conversation. Think about what it is that the teen can offer in a friendship and answer the following questions:
What are the teen’s areas of interest?
What are the teen’s strengths?
What are the teen’s weaknesses?
What behaviors need to be taught in order for the teen to effectively communicate?
How will the teen protect his/her safety when out with a friend? What needs to be taught and practiced?
Parents and teachers can collaborate to develop strong social goals so that special education teens understand how to build healthy relationships. For more information and to purchase a workbook go to www.talkcounts.com