Older Children (9+)
While it appears to be easier to teach older children social skills, it can also have its challenges, as many children have already developed some social ‘patterns’. It is often effective to allow these children to interact with their peers and work on social skills in a very ‘dynamic’ manner.
- A strategy we have often employed in our Social Skills groups is the ‘re-enactment’ or ‘replaying a scene’. Here, if a social skill or situation requires refinement, it is often a great idea to pick that up in the moment. Replaying a scene or reflecting on what has happened and then allowing a child to ‘redo’ that scene can help reinforce the appropriate social skill, with scaffolding from other peers and adults. Encouraging this form of problem solving can increase independence in social skills and decision making.
- Self-esteem and confidence is also more of a factor for a number of these older children. Particularly Higher IQ kids, low frustration tolerance is also a factor and these kids are often able to achieve things in their control, so when this doesn’t happen as ‘easily’ as they like, it is important to acknowledge and try and work through ways to manage this. Again, this is an example of how problem solving can support independence in problem solving.
- While it is still important to encourage discussion of ‘emotions’, problem solving and discussing ‘what can be done’ is also effective in emotional regulation. We often find that older children are more able to appreciate the range of emotions, and can often correctly identify their emotions for each context. However, ‘how’ to deal with these and what can be done to regulate emotions requires more problem solving and support (e.g. we often look at proprioceptive and other sensory regulatory input). Here, we are often encouraging children to take more responsibility for their emotions and actions – though this does require explicit teaching and support from adults.
- A system that is being employed in a number of schools, and we have had some success in Social Skills groups at our clinic, is Restorative Justice. (http://www.restorativepractices.org.au/). These practices are often used to ‘restore’ connections or difficulties between peers, and in turn restoring relationships. Given we are constantly striving for positive social interactions, when undertaking social skills groups, we are also keen to ensure conflict is managed in an equally positive manner. Given that many older children have a greater understanding of emotions, Restorative practices are often a good way to further develop feelings of empathy, and enhance problem solving and emotional understanding for children – hence its fit for social skills.
- Some schools, and individuals in classes, use the Incredible 5-point scale (http://www.5pointscale.com/). While this is not a specific social skill strategy, it borders closely with social skills and emotional regulation, hence its effectiveness. It is a strategy that we have used to ensure children in the group, or individuals, are able to identify their ‘levels’ of arousal and attention, through a 1-5 scale (1 (green) being calm and ready to engage – 5 (red) being out of control and often in a ‘fight or flight’ mode). Through the use of the scale, children can identify where they are feeling, or where others are, so they can modify behaviour to support interaction.
- Similar to this, some people often refer to emotions and emotional control as an ‘emotional balloon’ (i.e. don’t let it bust, but try and deflate it). This can again be a nice visual reminder.
Again, there are a number of other skills and strategies that can be employed, however the above list is a start and provides some useful differences to the ideas for younger children.