Craig had pretty much never had a friend. Every social interaction was torture for him. He had been a target of teasing, ridicule, and bullying from the time he was a very young child. He had been hurt so many times by social rejection that it had become the norm for him. He even began to welcome it, stating that he preferred not to have any of his peers in his life: it was better to be alone than to be continually hurt. It was clear to me, and to his parents, that a social skills group would be perfect for him.
But Craig felt differently.
He adamantly refused to join the group. His response, in my experience, is fairly common.And it's really not surprising. For kids like Craig, social interactions have always been sources of pain and torment. They assume that every group experience will be negative. Why in the world would they want to join a social group?
Yet, social skills groups are ideal for kids like Craig. They see very quickly that these groups are totally different than any social situation they've ever experienced: this is a place in which there is absolutely no teasing, insults, or humiliation. They also see that the group is filled with kids who have struggled with the very same things they have. These kids – often for the first time in their lives – feel a sense of belonging and acceptance. They start to develop friendships with the other members of the group. As these friendships grow, so too does the child's self-confidence. Over time, his newfound social skills become increasingly strong and stable. Eventually, he starts to apply them in the social world outside of the social skills group. His social abilities improve and he starts to make friends. Finally, social interactions need not mean pain and misery, but can instead bring closeness, joy, and affection.