The Crusader Newspaper Group

Is your child getting enough social interaction this summer?

Many children and teens look forward to summer break each year. The time away from school can be exciting, but the summer months can sometimes mean fewer opportunities for regular social interaction with peers.

“In my practice, I often see kids struggle with social isolation, which leads to feelings of lower self-esteem and loneliness which can spiral at times into depression,” says Dr. Parag Merai, a child and adolescent psychiatrist with Advocate Health Care. “In many cases, I even see this with kids who are meeting with peers but doing so online or via social media.”

Dr. Merai explains how the summer is a great time to work on developing social skills, especially practicing meeting new people, setting up playdates and exploring together while the stress of the school year is on hold.

“It’s important for kids and teens to keep in touch with children their own age,” he says. “Making new friends and maintaining existing friendships over the summer is critical. Keeping in contact with peers over the summer is important for a child’s continuing social development.”

For parents of children who are more shy or introverted, Dr. Merai recommends starting small.

“One-on-one interactions with peers can be less intimidating,” he says. “I also advise parents to consider role-playing social events ahead of time to get kids comfortable with the back-and-forth of interactions. Practicing social scripts with your kid can be a fun, improvisational family activity that can help them build skills they can use when interacting with peers. Be sure to validate your child’s fears and anxieties around social situations, as kids may feel shame when they struggle socially. However, they have what are actually very normal challenges in socialization.”

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