Dr. Sarah (00:02):

Ever wonder what psychologists moms talk about when we get together, whether we’re consulting one another about a challenging case or one of our own kids, or just leaning on each other when parenting feels hard, because trust me, even when we do this for a living, it’s still hard. Joining me each week in these special Thursday shows are two of my closest friends, both moms, both psychologists, they’re the people I call when I need a sounding board. These are our unfiltered answers to your parenting questions. We’re letting you in on the conversations the three of us usually have behind closed doors. This is Securely Attached: Beyond the Sessions.


Hello. Welcome back. I’m so happy to have Dr. Emily Upshur, Dr. Rebecca Hershberg here for another segment of Beyond the Sessions here on the Securely Attached podcast. Hello.

Dr. Rebecca (00:54):

Hello. Hello.

Dr. Emily (00:56):


Dr. Sarah (00:56):

It’s a great day to be recording. You guys can’t see, but Rebecca is in her backyard and it’s beautiful foliage. I’m very jealous from my basement recording session studio.

Dr. Rebecca (01:08):

With my sweet little puppy here.

Dr. Sarah (01:10):

Oh, the puppy.

Dr. Emily (01:10):

I know your dog is really beautiful.

Dr. Sarah (01:12):

You guys also, we have a fourth guest host, which is Rebecca’s beautiful puppy, but you can’t see. Maybe she’ll have something to say. But anyway, we had a question from a listener, and I’m going to read it really quick and then I’ll throw it to you guys for your hot takes. My 8-year-old daughter has struggled to make friends in the past. However, this school year she had a great class and seemed to really flourish socially with the school year. Winding down, I’m nervous about maintaining these new friendships. How can I help ensure her social connections remain over the summer and she stays connected to these new friends? This mom is really, really feeling a lot of protectiveness over her daughter.

Dr. Rebecca (01:57):

That’s literally, I was about to use that same voice like, Aw, as you’re reading it, this mom is like, my kid finally had some social success. Please don’t take that away. And it’s interesting. That was both of our first impressions. I think also when I hear the word ensure, it’s like, as a parent, how can I ensure X, Y, Z? It’s always like, ooh, there’s some anxiety about not being able to control. I think eight year olds are at really different levels in terms of whether friendships frankly are maintained over the summer. I think there’s reason to believe that social skills will be to the extent that they’re a developmental leap that this listener’s daughter was able to take this past year and maybe she got better at whatever it was, reading social cues or somehow making friends. But I’ve worked with eight year olds that really are just happy to be friends with whoever they’re around and that changes from camp to school to this class to that class, and they don’t have lasting friendships. And I’ve worked with eight year olds who have two best friends that they’ve had since they were four and they’re solid. And so


This question is more about maintaining the social gains and not necessarily maintaining the actual friendships per se, although, I don’t know play dates and pictures.

Dr. Sarah (03:27):

But I love that reframe because I think it takes a lot of pressure off of this parent and any parent who’s probably having a very similar question as the school year ends. It’s a really reasonable question to ask and it’s a very reasonable thing to want to be able to help support your kid in. But if we can reframe the task as how can I help my child maintain their social skill development and the gains that they make and their sense of confidence that they can have good experiences with their friends and peers versus how can I maintain these specific relationships Because actually developmentally, maybe they won’t and that’s totally okay and it’s not like a step backwards.

Dr. Emily (04:09):

Well, I actually think the summer is the time to try on different relationships. I always help parents think of the summer as a time when maybe you develop different and new friendships, which is a protective factor for when things, friends at school you might have a little bit of a difficulty or you grow apart a little or any sort of normative develop. It doesn’t have to be horrible. It could be a normal developmental thing that happens, the protective factor of having friends in multiple areas, maybe at your day camp, maybe in your neighborhood, outside of the school relationships. So I guess circling right back to Rebecca’s great point of these are skills that can be applied in different environments.

Dr. Rebecca (04:57):

I’m sorry, but I just thought of Grease of Danny Zuko.

Dr. Sarah (05:02):

Such a great model for healthy child and teen relationships.

Dr. Rebecca (05:07):

He became a different person and he could explore when he was in Australia a different identity.

Dr. Emily (05:12):

Summer was amazing.

Dr. Sarah (05:15):

It’s so funny that you go to Grease, which I was recently talking with someone about like, oh my God, as I’ve rewatched this as a grownup, I was like, this is so not, but it’s something I would necessarily, I watched it as such a young kid, but I don’t know that it’s a lot of sex in that.

Dr. Rebecca (05:31):

There is a lot of inappropriate stuff and yet the songs are so good.

Dr. Sarah (05:35):

So good, so good. But then the whole, you have to transform who you are as a person so that this hot cool guy will actually you is kind of a message that I was like, dang, that kind of ruins it for me. But I still love it, but…

Dr. Rebecca (05:49):

It’s the best and it’s horrible, like many of the things we watch.

Dr. Emily (05:53):

But I do like that idea of trying on different parts of yourself in the summer. It doesn’t have to be so extreme. We don’t have to make it all of that. But I do think if you’re a kid who is super athletic during the school year, but you try something different during the summer and that becomes a different friend group or a different, I don’t know. I like the idea that summer it has a little bit of fresh start of reation of who you are even as a little kid or explore different parts of yourself.

Dr. Sarah (06:22):

Another thing that I keep going back to in this mom’s question that I think is really kind of important for, I mean clearly this mom is feeling it and I think it’s fair to say it’s probable the child is feeling it, even if they’re not consciously, but maybe just subconsciously feeling it that they struggled to make friends in the past and they had a good year this year and there feels like perhaps there’s this precious and fragile thing that worked and maybe it’s very scary to think of it going away. And I feel like she literally says she had a great class this year, and so something seemed to click, and I can’t tell you how common that really is for how much we think, oh gosh, it’s my kid needs these skills or my kid needs all these experiences or needs to nurture these relationships.


When really a lot of times, especially at a young age, it’s kind of like luck of the draw, luck of the environmental where you got plopped. If you get put in a classroom where that cohort just does not vibe, it can be really, really tough. And if you get plopped into a cohort where, whoa, there’s this magical alchemical stuff that happens with this group and they just really get each other and they have a good year, it can be incredible. And I think sometimes it’s important to not place the cause of that on the child necessarily because they could have a bad year because of the group that they got placed in. And then we want to also help a child not internalize that I’m bad at making friends because I had a really tough year. It’s a little, I don’t want to over externalize it either. We want to help them feel like they have agency and cause effect is locus of control is within them, but just not holding that kind of, I don’t know. Do you get what I’m saying? I just want people to be able to distance themselves a little bit from being like, well, it might’ve actually just been a bad match of kids this year and we’ll try again next year and be optimistic that we could have a better year. Just something that I keep going back to.

Dr. Rebecca (08:30):

Yeah, I think that’s true. I also know as a mom who has one child who has a tremendously close group of friends and another one who really struggles with that, that it’s hard and I just want to, as my initial response to honor this mom’s vulnerability at I’m worried. The other thing I would say, having been through this as a mom and going through it still is how important it is to, and this is theme of our podcast, but to consistently try to parse what’s the daughters and what’s yours. So there are kids who have a really, I would put my son in this category. There are kids who have a really hard time making friends because they’re just not there yet for whatever reason. And it’s actually much harder for a parent than a kid. The kids actually pretty fine. Like, oh, I’m done with those friends for the summer and I don’t really care if I see them just to be aware of what meaning I would say to this listener, what meaning they’re putting on it and pressure they’re putting on it and how much of that is their kids. And it might be, mom, I have a hard time making friends. I don’t want to start all over again. It absolutely might be. Or it might be that this kid is oblivious and fine and good and the mom is feeling so nervous. And I think those are two different scenarios.

Dr. Sarah (10:04):

And both possible

Dr. Rebecca (10:06):

And both possible and both real and important.

Dr. Emily (10:11):

Yeah, I think the point of not over worrying if your child is at the same developmental level as their peers. Exactly. Socially is a universal. So I’m wondering if I have a child who’s of his stated age, but is super, super young for his cohort and it’s harder socially because of that, and there are kids at varying developmental sophistications with that. And I think not over panicking that where your child is right now is where they’re going to be forever is probably the best way I can think about that. Which is like, okay, so maybe my child has some lagging social skills. Maybe I’ll support them by helping them have relationships with the grade below or the neighbor who’s a year younger or I just think if we get super caught up and my kid is not catching up, my kid is not on car, everybody else has friends, what is going on?


They’re having sleepovers and this is what’s happening and I think we have to meet our child. We are saying a million times on this podcast all the time, sort of seeing our child for who they are and trying to scaffold, not over scaffold though, but scaffold sort of environments where they can feel some success. And of course there’ll be areas where they feel some struggle, but I think that that’s this varying developmental levels at these young ages in terms of specific skills is still really all over the place. And to Rebecca, your point, how you self-regulate as the parent, it can be really hard to see your kids struggle and as how you self-regulate as the parent and potentially be mindful about the ways you are pushing and the ways that you’re supporting. I think that’s probably where I fall most on that.

Dr. Sarah (12:22):

Yeah, I think that’s a really helpful reminder is, and Rebecca, you made this point too about separating out a little bit what’s coming from you and what you might be projecting onto the situation versus what is coming from your child, but even your child who might be experiencing distress around it, it’s helpful to kind of, Emily, what you’re saying is when our kids express distress, that sometimes elicits a very strong desire to solve it as a problem, which then communicates kind of indirectly, this is a problem and you need my help to solve it, which is so hard. It is so hard not to want to rescue your kids from social pain.

Dr. Rebecca (13:09):

So hard.

Dr. Sarah (13:09):

It’s crushing to watch. And to your point, Emily, it doesn’t necessarily mean that we have to rush in and fix it or we can scaffold to your point by maybe helping them foster relationships with other sort of developmentally matched peers like the next door neighbor who’s a little bit younger or whatever, but just we can inadvertently put a lot of pressure on them to get better at it.

Dr. Emily (13:47):

Well, I have a really funny story, so let’s just pretend that none of my children are listening to this podcast hopefully, but I remember one of my kids had one of these really good years and whether it was the class makeup, I’m talking about an academic year, whether it was class socially, whether it was class makeup or whatever, their developmental place. But I remember at the end they said, I have to go to camp and I have to make new friends. I don’t remember how to make friends. How did I do that? I know I have them now, but I’m really unclear of how I made them. So that was a really funny thing. I was like, oh, you’re good now. You’re doing so well. And I forgot that he still needed a little bit of a review of how we got there.

Dr. Sarah (14:40):

Which actually brings me back to this listener’s question, which is like, okay, we’ve talked a lot about how to really support the parent’s perception of this situation and emotionally support the child, but I’m thinking it could be helpful to take away some sort of concrete tangible strategies for like, okay, how do we actually give our children a little bit of a coaching in some basic social skill building? And I’m thinking, this is coming up now. I have a six and a half year old and he’s had a tough year actually this year. Just again, I think it’s been, honestly, I think it’s not that this year has been so tough that last year was kind of magical. So it’s kind of like with this mom where she was like, this year she had a great class, they seem to really flourish. And it was like last year he was in this program and it was like these nine kids who just fell in love with each other and it was just magic. And then he went to kindergarten and it was regular and it was fine, but wasn’t magic. And I think, so his perception of it is like, huh, this is a lot harder than it was last year. So we’ve been talking about things that he can do to build some connections with other kids.


So one of the things that I’ve been working with him on is how to enter into a group that’s like doing something already. How do you gently insert yourself in a way that doesn’t feel interruptive or feel intrusive or isn’t reading the room even just, and this mom has an 8-year-old, but I think there are slightly older ways of doing the same thing of if you see a group of kids doing something and you kind of want to enter in, how do you say, Hey, what are you guys up to? Can I join versus just steamrolling in or being too afraid to enter and avoiding. Do you guys have any thoughts on concrete strategies around other types of social dilemmas and how to help coach a kid in that?

Dr. Rebecca (17:08):

Yes, and I use that tone of voice because it sounds like this kid had some real success and we can talk about that generally for other people that may be listening, but I just want to highlight this mom’s question was about how can she maintain these friendships? And so I don’t want to just escape the most concrete point, which I maybe made very quickly earlier, but you can get a couple play dates with these school friends. Eight, a lot of kids are around for the summer in the sense that they’re not necessarily a sleep awake. Have a day where you have a picnic in the park or actually see if you can maintain the connections, look at pictures from the past school year if that’s the question. If it’s how do you help a child make new friends during the summer or continue with building social skills, then I think the one you mentioned is great, certainly tolerating for one of my kids. A big issue is kind of tolerating when everyone doesn’t want to do exactly what you want to do. And so how do you practice that? And you can practice with using stuffies or dolls or whatever, but also what my number one strategy and those kinds of issues that I use with families I work with and my own kids is kind of the pre-gaming, front loading, going to the playground, there’s going to be kids there. What’s your plan?


What’s your plan? If they’re doing this, what’s your plan? If they’re doing that, what’s your plan? If you want to play something that they don’t want to play, what’s your plan if they’re already playing something that you don’t want to play and just trying to talk things out in advance. It’s often me talking and them potentially maybe listening, maybe not, but just planting the seed. It might feel frustrating when we go and you want to play your whatever game he’s super into right now and they don’t, how are you going to handle that? What are you going to do? Should we bring for my son? It’s like your pogo stick, which is a singular person activity that you can do if it doesn’t work out so well. Socially we have a backup. I know Emily, you’re laughing. We bring the pogo stick everywhere and frankly, he’s such a good pogo-er and I don’t even know if that’s a word.

Dr. Emily (19:33):

Pogo-er. I love it.

Dr. Rebecca (19:35):

If I could kind of translate that into general tip for the listeners, he’s actually made friends because other kids think it’s cool that he can pogo stick. If your kid is actually good at something and has fun doing it, see if there’s a way to, if your kid loves basketball, go to a local basketball or have him shoot some hoops and meet friends that way it takes some of the pressure off. And for my kitty picks up random strays who want to learn how to do the pogo stick.

Dr. Emily (20:06):

I love that. I mean, what I was going to say and what I tell parents all the time is don’t avoid if your child has had some struggles and this person, this child has had some successes as well, but it sounds like they’ve had some struggles. Sometimes we avoid play dates or we avoid doing it because we’re what if this goes wrong? And usually I say, throw some spaghetti on the wall, do it. They might not always be successful and that’s okay. It’s a learning experience. And one of the things I often say, just to concretize some things for parents are if your child is a little worried about a play date, you’re a little bit worried about a play date, have a definitive time and end, no good play date goes for too long. An open-ended play date is generally not good for this age.


And even if they don’t do it, have a couple of ideas, a little bit of structure to throw in their way. So sometimes I’ll have, to your point, Rebecca, a basketball or an arts and crafts activity, and it’s not like they have to do it, but it gives ’em a place to start sort of an icebreaker and it gives it a little bit more scaffolding and structure so that I think it can help ease a little bit of these initial, how do I keep these relationships going? How do I do that? And I always encourage those two big points, do it, have a known time and an end and make that clear to everybody and have a little bit of structure available if that’s something they need to fall back on or lean back on.

Dr. Rebecca (21:41):

I think having an end point is so important, especially in the summer when people, grownups want to go to their friend’s house for barbecue or whatever and it’s like, well just let the kids play all afternoon.

Dr. Emily (21:54):

Until they freak out.

Dr. Rebecca (21:57):

And then we’ll be miserable and somehow always shocked when it all falls apart at a certain time. And there are kids who can handle that kind of freeform frolicking.

Dr. Sarah (22:08):

Free form, I can even say it freeform frolicking. I love that.

Dr. Rebecca (22:12):

There’s other families who need to game plan. It’s like who’s going to keep their eyes on this particular child? Meaning your own kid, you go relax and have a drink with our friends while I’m on just making sure.

Dr. Sarah (22:27):

I call it lifeguarding. Someone’s just got to be scanning the waters.

Dr. Rebecca (22:30):

Someone’s got to be scanning the waters. Exactly. And also we’re not going to wait till it goes south. I mean, I call it quitting. While you’re ahead. You want a social gathering to ideally end with your child feeling some form of success. And sometimes depending on your kid and family, it’s going to be before you want it to be. It’s like, I wish we could stay all afternoon and kind of just see what happens, but unfortunately I’ve seen this movie before and I know how it ends, so we’re going to leave now.

Dr. Emily (23:02):

Or radically accept that it’s going to be messy. I’ve made that choice as a parent too.

Dr. Rebecca (23:07):

Absolutely. Right. That too. My kid is a nightmare when he goes to sleep late, but we are going to do it and we know what that looks like. Right?

Dr. Emily (23:14):


Dr. Sarah (23:15):

I love it. Yeah, I’m a big fan of all of these strategies. I hope this answers this listener’s question and if you have any other questions, please don’t hesitate to send them to us and we will answer them to the best of our ability. And maybe Rebecca’s dog will answer some questions too.

Dr. Emily (23:34):

Next time. Next time.

Dr. Sarah (23:35):

Next time. Alright. Bye everyone.

Dr. Rebecca (23:38):

Bye. Thank you. Bye.

Dr. Sarah (23:42):Thank you so much for listening. As you can hear, parenting is not one size fits all. It’s nuanced and it’s complicated. So I really hope that this series where we’re answering your questions really helps you to cut through some of the noise and find out what works best for you and your unique child. If you have a burning parenting question, something you’re struggling to navigate or a topic you really want us to shed light on or share research about, we want to know, go to drsarahbren.com/question to send in anything that you want, Rebecca, Emily, and me to answer in Securely Attached: Beyond the Sessions. That’s drsarahbren.com/question. And check back for a brand new securely attached next Tuesday. And until then, don’t be a stranger.

✨We want to hear from you! Go to https://drsarahbren.com/question to send us a question or a topic you want to hear us answer on Securely Attached – Beyond the Sessions! ✨

207. BTS: How can I help my child maintain their friendships over the summer?