What you need to know about playdates

Socializing with others probably doesn’t come naturally or easily for your child. You may have decided to not set up playdates, because your child has so many challenges. So, the only social interactions that he receives are with family and the odd day at the park. Does this sound familiar?

You are not alone. Many parents have given up on having other kids over, or taking their child to someone else’s house. You probably feel like other parents just don’t get it, and you don’t want to feel embarrassed. Your child may act like he is having a horrible time, and he just doesn’t know how to interact. It’s always easier to throw in the towel.

However, setting up playdates for your child is so important. If you don’t give him the chance to succeed, he is never going to learn.

Here’s what you can do to set up a successful experience for both you and your child:

1. Find a friend who your child is familiar with. This can be a recommendation from his classroom teacher, a family friend, or even a neighbor.
2. Explain to the other child’s parent that your child has some social challenges, and you may need to provide him with guidance throughout the playdate.
3. Invite the other parent over, so that you have extra support.
4. Try not to feel embarrassed. Everybody faces challenges and you are trying the best you can.
5. Create a structured activity that your child loves, and that you know he will be successful at completing. This can be: playdoh, cooking, an art project, building a specific structure, or even playing a board game.
6. Use visual tools to help your child understand expectations. Include visual rules and a schedule of the day’s activities.
7. Include a snack during the playdate, so your child can practice his manners.
8. Keep the first few playdates short, so that your child can be successful.
9. Provide tons of positive reinforcement and verbal feedback.
10. Take deep breaths and remember this is going to take practice. You are fostering a friendship, and your child is going to reap tons of benefits from this experience…and so are you.

Social relationships take time to build. Try not to feel like the other family is doing you a favor. I promise that your child’s new friend is also getting tons out of this experience. Have trust in your child and know that with time, playdates are going to become much easier.

What are playdates like for your family? Please share below.

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Jennifer Lingle, M.Ed.

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3 Comments
  • Rebecca
    Posted at 07:35h, 01 September Reply

    Could you provide some strategies for creating social engagement and facial ting success for teens. Particularly males.

  • Brenda
    Posted at 10:40h, 16 February Reply

    We do invite one of two friends. She is never invited to someone else’s house. I feel like there are things she needs to learn about being at other’s houses too! How do you go about that?

    • Jennifer Lingle
      Posted at 13:32h, 16 March Reply

      Hi Brenda. This is a great question. I would create some picture stories for your daughter to explain expectations in other settings. You could also role-play with her, and troubleshoot any challenges that may arise. I would create some rules too, including things like: Ask before you go in someone’s fridge, ask your friend’s mom for a break if you need one, say please and thank you, etc. I also encourage you to take a look at my Social Skills Workbooks for more activities to help. https://www.autismeducates.com/products/

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