What kid doesn’t look forward to the end of the school year? While summer offers a much deserved break from the structure and pressures of the classroom, the summer months can also be a difficult time for kids who struggle with social skills. Sure there will be some relief from the bullying or loneliness that children with isms might encounter during the school year, but the long school break can bring about its own set of issues for socially challenged children.
It’s important for parents to think about the social goals a child or teen has been working on throughout the school year and look for opportunities to support these goals during the summer. This can include:
- summer camp experiences with a social skills focus,
- consistent peer interactions, and
- working on social goals in the home (i.e., emotional regulation, transitions, conversation skills).
Children can backslide in their social development during summer if they are the type of kid who requires structure to stay “tuned in” to the present moment. With too much unstructured time on their hands, children may turn to screens to provide entertainment. Kids with social skill deficits tend to enjoy fantasy, movies, computer and video games more than their neurotypical peers. If their summer includes an increase in time spent in front of a screen, this can be very detrimental to their social development. Parents may see an increase in rigid thinking, irritability and an inability to transition away from the screen without meltdowns. Limiting and monitoring television, computer and video game time will help avoid these conflicts.
Consider Calling in a Professional for Social Skill Support
If parents have a difficult time structuring their home environments they may want to consider having a professional come in to help set up a home schedule with challenges and rewards for meeting social goals throughout the day.
The good news is that summer is a great time to work on social learning, as there can be a decrease in anxiety during the summer months. Coming to a social skills group during the school year can be a challenge as our kids can expend a lot of energy “keeping it together” during the school day and may come to group somewhat depleted of the energy necessary to focus on social learning. Summer can be a time to work on building skills when anxiety is a bit lower.
Check with your school or local therapists and counselors to recommend a social skills group that might be right for your child. Or start one yourself. You can hire a trained professional to work with a small group of children in an informal setting.