Strategies for Success: Social Life Hacks for Children with Hearing Aids
Updated: Dec 18, 2019
All kids want to enjoy a social life. From being invited to birthday parties to having that special best friend who knows all their secrets, it’s important to development and a child’s psyche to hit social benchmarks as much as any other developmental milestone. Children with hearing aids can face obstacles to this, so arm yourself and your kiddo with strategies to help.
Let Your Child Have a Voice
Children learn much of their social skills in three ways. They watch behavior at home (adults, other kids in the home), they test these things out on friends and they learn from the reactions of others. That means that socialization starts at home. In your household, whether your child was born with hearing loss or developed it later, make sure that they have an equal voice.
Allowing siblings to drown out your child with a hearing impairment, or allowing that child to rule the roost, can have consequences when the child socializes with peers. Teaching them that they are equal is vital to developing a healthy social life.
Children with hearing aids can have difficulty getting into the groove of a social life so exposing them to more is better. From a young age have playdates with other children with hearing loss, hearing children and mixed groups. Your child will feel empowered being around children who also wear hearing aids and they will love spending time with hearing children. It may interfere with your social life, but the more socializing your child does the better they will do socially.
Talk to Other Parents
It can feel a little strange at first, but it’s okay to ask other parents about your child. Younger children often don’t notice another child has hearing aids so it’s okay to give a parent a head’s up that your child does and let them know of anything they might notice. For example, your child may still have difficulty managing noise even with hearing aids. You can explain that if there is a lot of noise, for example in a carpool, your child may not answer a question or engage as much. You can also check in to see how it went after. You will gain valuable insight into how your child is doing socially.
Encourage Self Expression
A study on the psychology of hearing loss raised an important issue around childhood hearing loss. Children with hearing difficulties will express their feelings less frequently than hearing child. This likely comes from a habit of others speaking for the child. Parents are always fierce advocates but this can lead to delayed ability of the child to speak for themselves. One area where this is seen is around questions.
The study uses the example of a child with a new hearing aid. Like anything else, new hearing aids sometimes don’t fit right and need some adjustment. Asking the child, “How’s your new hearing aid?” it was found, was likely to be more helpful to the child in the long run than asking, “How do you like your new hearing aid?” In the former, the question is neutral and asks the child to answer it without any expectations. In the latter, however, a child with hearing loss may think they are supposed to like the hearing aid and thus not provide a full answer, saying, “It’s good,” rather than stating that they like it but have noticed the right one is a little uncomfortable. Try to remember this in all interactions with your child: giving them a voice will greatly help them in social situations to assert themselves.
Expect More, Protect Less
A great rule of thumb when it comes to parenting is “increase expectations and limit interventions.” If you are thinking of answering for your child, handing in a form or scheduling a meeting, ask yourself if a hearing child of the same age could do it. And then let your child do it. This doesn’t mean throwing your child to the wolves. It does mean being realistic and facing that it can be easy for parents to do more for a child with hearing loss than they would a similar hear child.
One time to be more aware and involved is during transitions. Whether it’s a new school, taking the bus for the first time, or changing classes for the first time, your child may need extra assistance during times of transition. These times are difficult for all children but your child likely clings to routine as a way to navigate and disrupting this can be difficult. Ask for a tour of a new school, go in or stay late before a schedule change so your child can walk the transitions between classes, and meet the driver if possible. Allowing your child to get the new routine in her head early will alleviate some of the anxiety and limit and bumps in the road. And there will be bumps in the road.