Have you heard of using social stories to help your child’s behavior? If you haven’t, don’t worry, we’re going to teach you all about them today! If you are the parent of a young child, you know that they have ideas all their own. One of the most important jobs you have is to help your child learn how to control his or her emotions and manage him- or herself in the world. As you know, however, that can be easier said than done!
If you are in the throes of the “terrible twos” or life with a “threenager,” and you find that they have a hard time with particular situations or transitions, you might want to consider the use of social stories. Initially introduced in 1993, social stories were created as a means “to support individuals with autism to better cope with social situations” (Ali & Frederickson).
Tips for Writing Social Stories for Kids
Even if you don’t have a child with autism or other developmental delays, social stories are a wonderful way to help them learn how to act, manage themselves, or even prepare for change. Let’s say you’re expecting a second child and are concerned that your daughter is going to have a hard time with the addition to the family. Writing a story to teach her how to manage her feelings and reading it to her leading up to the delivery may help decrease the adjustment period.
Once you know the bones of a social story, you’ll find they are not difficult to write. There are several key elements which will help them be as effective as possible.
- Write from your child’s point of view. Use the first person from your child’s perspective. Using the pregnancy example, you could write, “I am going to be a big sister. There is a baby growing in my mommy’s tummy.”
- Include emotions your child is likely feeling. “I am excited to be a big sister because my little brother will be my friend. I may feel sad, too, because I will share Mommy and Daddy with my little brother.”
- Validate the emotions and explain how to handle them. “It’s okay when I feel sad about sharing Mommy and Daddy. Instead of getting angry when I feel sad, I will tell Mommy or Daddy that I need special time with one of them.”
- Provide reassurance. “I will still spend special time with Mommy when I have my bath and special time with Daddy when he reads me my bedtime story, but I can ask for special time whenever I need it. I know Mommy and Daddy love me just as much as they love my baby brother.”
- End with positive, self-focused feelings. “I am proud of myself for using my words when I need special time with just Mommy or Daddy. I love my baby brother and am happy he is part of my family.”
- Use personal photos throughout the story. Use one of the ultrasound photos when talking about the baby, a picture of your bathtub, a picture of your daughter’s favorite book for the reference to storytime, and photos of your family members. The more personal and relatable the story is to your child, the better it will work toward teaching her how to behave.
- Keep in short. The social story example I shared above is about as long as it should get. Don’t try to cram too much in one story. You can always write multiple stories, but spend at least a few weeks on one with your child before introducing another.
- Repetition is key. You’ll find the greatest success with social stories if you read them to your child often – even 3-4 times a day (or more)! Your child will love the story since it is written about her and the photos are of things she sees every day, and she will be thrilled to read it multiple times a day!
The more social stories you write, the easier they will come to you. There are plenty of helpful resources online, too, if you need a little more information on the structure.
Have you tried writing social stories? Make sure to come back and share what topics you wrote about for your child and how it worked for you!