How To Get The Social Skills Class Your Family Wants and Needs
Seriously, what child really wants to sign up for social skills class? In my storied career, I’ve actually only heard one child bemoan, “But Mom, I really need social skills!”
The rest of my clients have been coaxed, cajoled, and bribed into attending the initial session, generally to discover that the class wasn’t that harrowing, but also maybe wasn’t that helpful. (As for adults? There is a reason so many elementary school groups are full, and why many young adult groups are on the brink of extinction. Adults don’t have to attend!)
How do you get the programming you want? Here are some ideas:
Talk to the people who seem to be in charge
Find the decision makers and offer some creative suggestions (more on that below). Directly suggest programming you might like to see. Sometimes the people in charge have been there a long time and have not considered updating their programming. Your request might be a gentle prod to update offerings. Alternately, “Geez, I don’t know…that is how it has always been” is the phrase you might hear. In which case…
Talk to the people who don’t seem to be in charge
You know who I’m talking about: the young, hip ones who know which organizing apps you should have on your phone–and how to install them! These young adults are open to new ideas and will probably welcome your suggestions. They also have the energy to pull this off and are not yet accustomed to the status quo.
Ask for a group about an interest
Before you roll your eyes back so far that you resemble a teenager, consider: what social skills groups do you know that are based on an INTEREST of some sort? Interests that easily come to mind include crafting, art, knitting, board games, gaming, drama, writing, and rather specific animals. Ends up you CAN learn about social skills while also discussing specific interests with your, wait for it, future friends!
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Ask for a group that is an activity
I’m currently obsessed with the notion of Yoga for Gamers. Everyone needs exercise, why not try a little yoga with people who also game? Make some new friends, chat about your favorite games…you can see where this is headed. Not interested in yoga or gaming, how about pottery, or poetry, or website design? Get specific, and make your request.
Ask for a 4–week group
It often seems that social skills classes run for 8-16 weeks. Who can realistically commit that long? Ask for a one month group, and for the opportunity to sign up again and again. If you pitch the most amazing programming ever, the group will fill, so reserve your spot!
Ask for a short and focused group
We once ran a series of 4-week classes for adults related to executive functioning. We met hourly for a week, focusing one month on writing appropriate goals, another month of prioritizing and motivation, and another month of goal achievement. (Well, mostly achievement. Not all goals were met.)
The participants were asked to commit to making changes every week. Most everyone signed up month after month, but some people took a month off due to scheduling or other factors. Low pressure, clear skill building, accountability, and lots of laughing. To translate that into a more social skill related group, ask for a group about joining groups, texting, posting on social media, first dates…
Ask for a group that you would want to attend
Sometimes as professionals we get so caught up in growth and measurable progress that we forget that social interaction is supposed to be fun. Ponder what type of group would be fun for you (or your child, I suppose, since this is supposed to be about your child) and see what elements of that jump out at you. Where is the group, how long, how often, how many other people? What are you doing during the group, and are people sitting/milling about/focused on their knitting–and also communicating in some way? Ask for a fun group that is meaningful in some way.
As a parent, do you have a right to ask for a group that meets your child’s needs? YES! You may have to ask a few different providers, in a few different ways, but asking is probably the first step in getting others to roll out some more creative programming ideas that build skill and are also actually interesting and fun!
Must you settle for the status quo? No! And given the creative brains and divergent thought processes in your household, you are probably the person to help solve the boring.social.skills group crisis! Go, you! And when you get a minute, drop me a line about the awesome group that you pitched to your team. Who knows, maybe I’ll use your idea, too!
This article was featured in Issue 90 – Practical Ways to Build Skills for a Lifetime