How Isabela coped with her friends’ move

This is the story of Isabela. Isabela is 9 years old. Isabela’s parents are expats but they have been living in The Netherlands for a long time and Isabela was born here. Isabela was enjoying school. She got good grades, got along well with the teachers and her peers, and she had two best friends to play with. Her best friends even lived close to her home so that Isabela could have playdates almost every other day. There was not much that her parents needed to worry about, except maybe the occasional sibling rivalry between her and her twin brother Lucas. The two could fight over every little thing, but they could also play well together during other moments. When Isabela did not have a play date she could often join Lucas to his, and when Lucas did not have play dates, he could often join Isabela.

Summer was approaching
Although Isabela’s life was stable and her parents decided to stay in the Netherlands at least until Isabela and Lucas had finished primary school, they were attending an international school, and so change was a constant factor in their lives. The school year was coming to an end and for Isabela, the worst thing she could imagine happened; both of her best friends were moving away.

Isabela’s parents guided Isabela well. They helped her prepare gifts for the departing friends and made sure those last moments of goodbye were special and worthy. They also agreed with the friends’ parents that Isabela could talk with her friends regularly on Skype.  Summer came and the family went on holiday and family visits. Isabela appeared to be doing well, she met her friends on Skype as agreed and was happy to have vacation the rest of the time.

A new school year
But as the new school year started, Isabela had to face the facts. When she came to school, her best friends were no longer there. Although she had always gotten along well with her peers, they were not her friends. Isabela tried to find support with her brother Lucas and his friends. Unfortunately, Lucas and his friends felt that they should no longer play with girls. Each time Isabel tried to join in with them, she faced rejection. Isabela felt very lonely. She often fought with her brother. The sibling rivalry was at an all-time high at home, but now at school too they were regularly found fighting. Isabela even had to be sent to the principal once because she could not contain her anger. In the mornings, Isabela started complaining she did not want to go to school.

Yet with a little help…
Isabela’s parents and teachers had heard about Social Skills 4 Kids and wondered if this program could help Isabela. She joined a group halfway through the school year. Isabela was a bit worried to join, she feared she would be singled out by going to such a group. Although the children in her group had joined for a variety of reasons, Isabela was relieved to find that they had one thing in common; they all were struggling with something and they all were very normal children. During the course, Isabela was challenged to show initiative to join in with other groups and she learned about things she could do when she was feeling very angry. A few weeks into the program, Isabela’s parents reported that she was no longer complaining in the mornings to go to school. Isabela learned to take a break when she noticed her anger was rising high and she learned about ‘helping thoughts’ which she could use during such moments. The fights with her brother diminished and after some weeks, Isabela even found that she was better off now that she could no longer join in with the boys, because she had made new (girl) friends of her own.


Social Skills 4 Kids


Social Skills 4 Kids is a 7 week group course for English speaking children between 7 and 12 years old. New groups are starting 2-3 times per school year at Expat Child Psychology.

Learn more about Social Skills 4 Kids!

* Expat Child Psychology respects the privacy of their clients. Isabela is a fictional character whose story is inspired by several children who followed the course.

Practicing Non-Verbal Skills through games

By Sara Mansson

We have talked about social skills before, see for example this post on negotiating, this one about stimulating your child’s emotional development or this one about saying goodbye.

There are several ways of communicating with others, many of which go far beyond our words. In fact, some would estimate that as much as 90% of social success is dependent on non-verbal skills rather than verbal ones. Although these numbers are debated by others, non-verbal communication is an important part of everyday communications and without it we (and our children) would often miss opportunities of true connection.

Although most children will learn these skills just fine by themselves, today we will explore which fun games may help your child feel more confident and comfortable using several  non-verbal skills that are fundamental to being socially successful.

Eye contact
Eye contact can tell us much about our interaction with someone else. It serves the purpose of being a channel of emotional communication: “are you really angry or are you only joking?”; of romantic interest; of power in terms of dominance and submission; and of communicating attention, and more. One of the most prominent functions of eye contact when having a conversation is to show that one is listening.

Simon Says
Simon says normally goes like this: the game leader (‘Simon’) determines what will happen. He/she will ask others to do an action like walking, jumping, turning, etc. by saying ‘Simon says walk’. But he/she will also try to fool the others by saying only ‘walk’. When the game leader does not start by saying ‘Simon Says …’ the others are not supposed to do it.
In this version of the game, the Simon has to blink exaggeratedly when the others are supposed to do the action, instead of saying “Simon Says” out loud.

Wink murder
Another game that helps children feel more comfortable with eye contact is wink murderer. In this game,  a detective has to find out who in the group is “killing” other group members by winking at them.

Body language & posture
We show much of what we are feeling and thinking with our body. Think about your child’s posture when he is feeling proud of an achievement as opposed to when he is feeling ashamed about accidentally breaking a glass. Noticing others’ body postures is one way of getting a glimpse into what others are feeling without actually having to ask them.

Charades
emotion-conesYou can teach your child the importance of paying attention to others’ body language by playing games like charades where body language and posture are central parts to figuring out the correct answer (think of answers like Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Sleeping Beauty, The Hungry Caterpillar for charades with book titles). It will be a fun way to engage the whole family in reading body language without drawing attention to the learning aspect.

Exploring Posture
The players are asked to walk around the room. Every half a minute or so, the game leader suggests a posture the players have to take on. For example, they could ‘walk as a turtle’ or ‘stand like a tree’. Ask the players to pay attention to how the different postures make them feel. Afterwards, reflect on the postures by asking questions like: ‘which posture made you feel very scared?’ or ‘which one made you feel the most powerful?’ etc.

Facial expressions & emotion recognition
Our facial expressions often reveal much about what we’re thinking and feeling (even involuntarily!), so they’re useful to be able to read and express correctly. Research has even found that children who are skilled at reading others’ faces are more likely to be considered as popular.

school-busThe Emotion Bus
The Emotion Bus is a fun game for a small group of children. One child or adult is the bus driver and sits in front of the imaginary bus (the bus can be defined by chairs, pillows, hoops, cloths, or something else). The bus driver picks up all the passengers (other players) one by one. Each passenger that comes in, buys a ticket and takes place in the bus is experiencing a new emotion and everyone in the bus, including the driver, mimic the emotion. For example, if a new passenger comes in crying, all passengers on the bus will begin to cry. When all passengers are picked up, they could be dropped off one by one showing an emotion while they get off the bus too.

Guess my emotion
To teach your child about reading facial expressions, you could together create flashcards with the most basic emotions: happiness, sadness, anger, fear, disgust, surprise. You could then play a game in which one person has to think of a scenario in which a person feels this emotion, and the other player can get points by correctly mimicking the emotion on their face. For example, for the card that reads disgust, player one could say “Someone who just stepped in dog mess.” and then player two has to correctly guess that it is disgust by pulling a disgusted face. Once your child has learned these basic emotions, you could make the game more challenging by adding more complex emotions, such as jealousy, confusion, pride, and such.


If you find that your child struggles with making friends, negative thoughts, negotiating, bullying and teasing, or just interacting with others, you may contact Expat Child Psychology to learn more about how your child could benefit from one of our Social Skills 4 Kids courses, starting this fall!

Can’t you two just get along?

Guestpost by Sara Mansson

Last time, we talked about some day to day examples of things you can do to help your children learn good negotiation skills. One thing that helps children learn this is experiencing problems that need solving. One of our tips then was to wait and step back when your child lands in a discussion to allow them to solve it by themselves. But sometimes heated arguments break out even amongst the most skilled negotiators and when strong emotions, shouting and aggression start to play a role it might be better to step in. How can you help your children in the heat of the moment?

Upset negotiation fightCool down. When you notice the emotions running high and want to prevent a full escalation, or when a fight is already taking place, ask your children to take some time to breathe in and out, cool down, and count to ten. Following this, you can let each child state their points in a calm manner while the other has to listen.

Remind. When a negotiation involves an emotionally laden topic, emotions can run high, which in turn means negotiation skills drop. It can then be helpful to ask your children to take a step back and reflect on what their goal of the negotiation is, and reminding them to keep the tone of their voice as calm as possible when they have decided what to say. You can then give your child reminders on the tips you previously discussed regarding the mastering of their new negotiation skills.

Siblings negotiateSuggest. Sometimes children do not know how to solve the problem, which options other than ‘my way’ or ‘their way’ are available? Usually there are three more options: a mix of the two (first this, then the other), something else entirely (not A or B, but C) or nothing at all (agreeing to disagree, not playing with each other for now).

Obtaining the ability to successfully negotiate is a very important life skill for your children. Not only will it give you a calmer home environment, but it will also give your child insight into how to make their own wishes heard in a composed, mature manner but also how to listen to and consider their siblings’ views. Successful negotiation in which both parties are happy will leave your children feeling independent and confident.


 

Expat Child Psychology offers Social Skills 4 Kids group courses for children aged 9 to 12 which helps, among other things, to improve their problem solving skills.

How Jake made the Netherlands his new home

This is the story of Jake. Jake is a self-aware 10 year old boy. Jake used to live in the USA, but a few months ago his parents decided to move to the Netherlands, to a curious place called The Hague. Jake was looking forwards to the move, he saw the move as an exciting chance to make new friends and experience a new environment. And his old friends? Well, with the internet, skype and online games they would only really be a click away, wouldn’t they?

Then reality kicks in

A few weeks after landing in the Netherlands, Jake finds himself home alone on a Wednesday afternoon. Disappointed. Making friends had not been so easy. In fact, Jake is very shy and has no clue how to approach the other children in his class. He only talks to them when the teacher says they have to work together, and even then, Jake and the other kid would only talk about the project shortly, agreeing upon the basics before they split to work on their own parts. Making friends in the USA had been easy, he had been in de same class since he started school, with the same peers who at some point had automatically become his friends. But not this time. This time it would take more. And his old friends? Staying in touch was not so easy after all, what with the time difference. Only for half an hour a day was it possible to talk to them, when they came home from school and right before he was supposed to go to sleep. And they already started to move on with their lives, they did not come online everyday anymore right after school to talk with Jake.

As a result of his disappointment Jake started to hate the Netherlands, to hate his parents for bringing him here and hate himself for being so shy and unable to make friends and to adapt to this new place. At home, Jake would often feel tired and fight with his parents while his grades in school were far below the average of his grades in the USA. Luckily, by this time his parents realized Jake was not coping with the changes very well and signed him up for Social Skills 4 Kids.

Yet with a little help…

At Social Skills 4 Kids, Jake learned how to approach other children. He learned how to ask others about their personal lives and this in turn led others to show more interest in Jake too. He learned how to cope with the changes and with rejection. Before the end of the course, Jake had become more confident and had made several friends in the Netherlands. The fights at home diminished and Jake was more able to appreciate the Dutch language and culture.


Social Skills 4 Kids


Social Skills 4 Kids is a 7 week group course for English speaking children between 7 and 12 years old. New groups are starting 2-3 times per school year at Expat Child Psychology.

Learn more about Social Skills 4 Kids!

* Expat Child Psychology respects the privacy of their clients. Jake is a fictional character whose story is inspired by several children who followed the course.