Q: Our son had a hard time making solid friendships in elementary school. We were hopeful this year’s change to middle school, and all the new kids that would involve, would result in a fresh opportunity at developing his posse.  Unfortunately with Covid and 100% virtual schooling, all of those plans have been scuttled. We feel so bad for him, any advice for us?

A: Making new friends in a virtual setting can be very challenging, particularly on Zoom where crosstalk is discouraged, if not impossible. Making friends, especially in middle school, is hard enough in person. Some kids could really use some coac

hing in how to do that effectively. Social skills groups are designed to assist kids in developing these abilities. For example, last summer local therapy practice, Alliance Pediatrics, offered a Secret Agent Society virtual summer camp.  This fall Alvord Baker and Associates is offering a Resilience Builder Program. Other groups like this can be found at the website groups4kids.com. Closer to home, Kentlands Psychotherapy’s Max Raabe and Dr. Kelli Dunlap combine social skills training within the format of collaborative storytelling role-play groups (RPGs), providing kids with opportunities to make friends, learn new skills, and have fun. Groups such as these allow kids to connect by providing opportunities for non-structured imaginative conversations. In the RPG case, the group leader functions as a storyteller who organizes the experience by making sure everyone is included and helping participants friend each other. In all cases, clinician facilitators help ensure specific goals are met such as reducing isolation and anxiety, or improving communication skills and emotional development. 

This is a challenging time for everyone, especially our kids. There are supports available in the community that can support our kids. If you search around, we are optimistic you will find the right fit for your son.

Originally posted in the Lakelands Leader in December 2020.