Having watched three children almost grow up, I have to say that dealing with socialization and social issues is one of the most difficult and painful ongoing lessons of childhood. Different kids respond to the challenges of social interactions differently and some of the toughest lessons are learned from situations we parents have virtually no control over. We can help our kids with those lessons, however, and one of the ways we can help is through role play and discussing what could and can be done.
Of course, older kids are probably not going to want to “role play” but you might be surprised. Social angst can be such a confusing issue that your child may be willing to try anything to get a handle on things. You can suggest that you play the other person and they play themselves, or vice versa. This can work well whether children are having issues with peers, a coach, or a teacher. A little silliness can help to alleviate some of the tension too.
If the child is reluctant to role play, just talking through how things might have gone differently can be extremely helpful. My son and I used to do a lot of role playing when he was younger, but then as he got older, we moved into more “what could you have done differently?” discussions. I still tend to take on the “role” of the other person and he gets to work through where he might have made poor social choices and what are other ways he could handle the situation. For kids who have a hard time picking up social cues and figuring out what is going on in social situations, role playing and talking things through in order to make a plan for how to handle things can give these kids more confidence and help them master the social scene.