Helping Your Child When Social Stress Impacts Them

In our last blog we discussed ways to help your child identify, make and keep healthy relationships. This week we want to explore things you can do as a parent if you notice your child is experiencing unhealthy peer relationships. A lot of children go to school each day and experience bullying, social isolation and stress. These distressing peer relationships can take a toll on your child’s mental health and overall well-being. Below are some tips on how to help your child manage conflict with peers and maintain their mental health.

1) Get to know who the key players are in your child’s social circle. Try to understand their world.

  • Do daily check in’s about the up’s and downs of your child’s day
  • Does he/she have a best friend?
  • Is there someone in the group he/she speaks negatively about?
  • Do you notice conflicts that arise from time to time or regularly?

2) Let your child know that you feel confident that they can work through disagreements on their own and remind them that you are there to help if they feel stuck.

When they come to you:

  • Maintain a non-judgmental stance – No problem is too big or too small
  • See if any safety concerns need to be addressed by an adult. Let your child know you would
    have to take action if:

    • Someone is at risk of suicide
    • Someone is going to run away
    • Someone is harming themselves or others
    • You feel a safety concern needs to be addressed by adults

3) If there are no safety concerns ask how your child would like you to help. Remember if there are no safety concerns allow them to own the problem.

  • If your child is unsure of how you can help, try suggesting some of these as options:
    • I can Just listen
    • I can talk out the problem with you and offer solutions
    • We can role-play tough conversations
    • I can talk to the other child’s parent or the school

4) If you notice changes in your child, don’t wait for them to come to you. Let them know that you are concerned. Explain to them the changes you have noticed in them specifically. Ask if anything is going on at school.

  • Examples of changes in behavior may include:
    • Missing school or asking to miss school frequently
    • Complaining of headaches, stomach aches, and illness more often
    • Eating less/more or sleeping poorly
    • Declining grades
    • Increased irritability/isolation

5) Last but not least thank your child for trusting you enough to come to you. Remind them that no matter how big or small the issue you will listen and you will help. Having a safe space to come home to at the end of a long and socially challenging day makes a world of difference in protecting your child’s overall well-being.


Suzette Toscano, LMFT