Letting Go of Fear When You Are Setting Up a Playdate

A while back, one of my clients asked me if I had any advice to give her when it came to setting up a playdate for her son. A new family had moved in across the street and she was eager to invite their child over. She knew that the two boys had lots in common.

However, fear stopped her in her tracks. She was afraid to contact this boy’s mom, because her son had experienced so many traumatizing past playdates. She was terrified for her son. She was nervous that this mom would judge her. And, she was fearful that all of the scary stories she had been telling herself were going to come true.

I encouraged her to put on her brave face. Invite this mom over. Bake something delicious. Tell the neighbor-mom about her fears. Explain that her sweet son is sensitive to music and that he may meltdown if another child whistles or hums. Explain that she wants nothing more than for her son to have a successful playdate and a friend, but sometimes it’s not that easy.

So, this mom did indeed reach out to the neighbor-mom. And guess what happened? It turns out this neighbor’s son also has AUTISM! What a world. You never know what could happen if you just swallow your fears and take a chance.

Here are some other things that you can do to set your child up for success during playdates:

  1. Have a plan in place, especially for the first playdate. Create a cooking activity, an arts and crafts project, or another structured game.
  2. Create visuals to explain the order of events, expectations, and rules. Review the visuals before the playdate takes place. You can even talk with your child privately and remind him of the expectations during the get-together.
  3. Make sure that your child knows what to do if he is feeling overwhelmed. Create a safe-place or sensory area where he can take a break.
  4. Keep the first playdate short to help set your child up for success.
  5. Have the playdate in a place where your child feels most comfortable. This can be at your house, the park, or another familiar location.
  6. Provide your child with lots of verbal positive reinforcement. Periodically check up on him, or listen from the other room. Look for opportunities to compliment him and his friend on how well they are playing together.
  7. Breathe.

You’ve got this. Your child has got this. Friendships are on the horizon!

I am so proud of this momma. I know that it wasn’t easy to reach out, but magical things are happening because of her bravery.

If you would like practical strategies, recommendations, or just moral support when it comes to social skills and your sweet child, be sure to check out our upcoming Social Club for Parents. We are getting started on Monday, August 6th. Click here for more info.

The Social Club

For parents who are trying to help their children with autism navigate social challenges.

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