Should I throw my child into a social situation?

(2-minute read)


My 9th grade daughter refuses to go to sleep-away camp because she says that she doesn’t have any friends. She doesn’t want to go to a local day camp either for the same reason. She’s a very bright student and I’ve told her numerous times to just have conversations with her peers, but she won’t even try. I’m really frustrated. If I send her to sleep-away camp regardless, will she figure it out on her own especially if she has no choice?


Dear Frustrated,

It can be quite confusing that a highly intelligent young lady would have trouble making friends. However, social smarts are different from academic smarts. Just because a child is bright and does well academically doesn’t automatically guarantee that the same child will do well socially. Different parts of the brain operate for different sets of skills.

It’s important to remember that when a child hasn’t been able to figure out how to make friends, how to have conversations, how to initiate an activity, and so forth, telling a child to just do it isn’t going to make it happen. Even more so, if a child has tried and failed, new problems can develop – such as anxiety and fear of rejection, which can make the child not even want to try.

The good news is that these skills can be broken down into simple, concrete steps so that the child will be able to actually make friends, have conversations, etc. Using Direct Teaching as a teaching approach, we create a pie chart of conversations topics, and then practice how to ask questions to show interest, make comments, tell stories, offer opinions, give compliments, and so forth. With lots and lots and lots and lots of practice, children who have learned these skills via Direct Teaching can become indistinguishable from their peers.

And how do we help our kids who have fear of rejection? Most of us have dealt with this feeling in our lives, right? We can share with our children that we’ve experienced it as well, and how we dealt with it. It is comforting and validating for children to hear that their parents, whom they admire and respect, also dealt with similar feelings and overcame them (hopefully) successfully.

Have a fun, socially interactive week!


Dr. Devora

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