I think as a parent, one of the hardest things to see is your child hurting and not being able to fix that hurt. Social interactions have a big impact on them.
When our child was younger, preschool and elementary school aged, fostering friendships was easier. I could make playdates, invite children for birthday parties, connect and educate other parents and meet people out in the world. Even though our child has some challenges, social connections were still made. It was easier to make an inclusive setting and people tended to be more understanding.
As our child has gotten older, keeping these social connections has been a challenge, so much so that the connections are almost gone. The friendships are harder to foster (parents aren’t making those playdates for high school kids) and their peers have been less inclusive.
Our child struggles with a few things and of course the challenges are invisible. One of these challenges is Social Communication. When peers interact with our child, they don’t understand why they behave or relate in a different way. Our teen tries to keep everything hidden and blend in, although it never works out that way. We educate our children, empower them and foster self acceptance… Teenage years are already a challenge for the “neurotypical” teen and an even bigger challenge for ours.
When I was first researching this issue and trying to find solutions, I came across the phrase “social isolation“. The definition smacked me right in the face. It is described as “a state of complete or near-complete lack of contact between an individual and society“.(1)
Social Isolation is something I never even thought of, until now. This is what our child is experiencing! Outside of going to school, our child does little else with peers. We have made suggestions, offered movie nights and tried to create other social events. They never seem to come together. Everyone is too busy or already has other plans etc.. Social media and being safe online is a difficult task too and they have limited access due to that.
The impact of poor social connections on our child has been an increase in the following:
- feelings of not being good enough
- susceptible to risky behaviour (wanting to be accepted)
- attention seeking in other ways
- feelings of loneliness
- experiences times of depression
- more anxious
- tries to be invisible
- not wanting to engage, the “why bother” attitude comes in
So here we are in this place, in a separate world from their peers.
As a parent, this is hard. I want to fix things. We have conversations with school, continue to try to create opportunities for others to join in, continue to educate our child (particularly around social cues), advocate wherever possible and educate others. And….we will continue to do this.
I am hopeful that as they grow and progress that some meaningful and positive connections will be made. We are starting our transition into the “adult world” and am hoping through some of the school and community programs that they will find others with similar interests.
I am always learning and would love to hear from my readers. Please leave a comment below or give me an email.
What are your experiences? Have you had to deal with this with your child? What are some strategies that you have used? Have you found anything that helped with teen relationships?