NURTURE INFORMATION HUB
Children born very preterm are at increased risk of social competence difficulties throughout childhood and adolescence. Several developmental trends were also evident including social adjustment difficulties, evidence of poorer interpersonal behaviour and suggestions that social-cognitive processing may be spared in children born very preterm, at least during early childhood.
Parents, teachers, or service providers, such as psychologists, can positively influence an at risk child's social competence by guiding the child, and giving advice and feedback, by providing opportunities for social interaction and prompting appropriate behaviours. By teaching children about their emotions, they can understand and cope with them as well as interpret how peers may be feeling.
The ability to make a friend and sustain that friendship can be difficult for some children during the ages of 6 to 12 years. The art of making friends is usually subtle and learned by watching other children and with careful guidance of the primary care givers, teachers, and interacting with older siblings. But as children born premature or sick mature, they may find that it is not a skill that comes as easy as other children. The desire is there to connect and have a buddy to play with but they may lack the skills for peer Interactions. For example, some children born premature have trouble with attention and inattentiveness plays a part in hindering a conversation because they could get lost in two-ways. Firstly, by missing parts of the conversation and also mis-interpreting the conversation. There is also a level of cooperation that is needed in conversations, it’s that ability to talk and then allow the other person to have their say without interrupting, body language and reading facial cues, and the ability to have emotional regulation. Also, academic performance can also play a part as well. If school performance is poor this could impact the confidence needed to make and sustain a friendship.
Next, it is important that social‐development goals be met consistently, this helps make successful friendships. Being able to understand and develop several friendships at the same time requires a lot of social ability. Also, to have the resilience to bounce back from disagreements or be flexible in friendship circles. The group that needs some closer monitoring are the very preterm babies and extremely low birth weight babies that are now school age. But this can be supported and these kids can learn the skills if there is some attention given to this area of a child’s development.
Some children who are in primary school that were born premature might need help in these areas:
We encourage you to speak with your family GP or school counsellor about your concerns and they can help refer you and your child for further support.
Some questions to ask:
Points to remember when supporting and helping your child:
International Friendship Day: July 30th is a day to promote friendship in positive ways.