When we’re trying to protect our kids from physical harm, there are a number of clear-cut rules which we can advise them on. Don’t talk to strangers, always wear a seatbelt, look both ways before you cross the road, etc. However, helping your children through the matter of social interaction is a lot more complex and confusing for them and you. If you’re worried about how easy it will be for your child make friends, here are some tips to help you along…
Seeing that a child is socially isolated can bring out the protective lioness in all of us. However, no matter how bad things seem, it’s essential that you avoid overreacting. When you’re feeling distressed by the situation, the first step is to take a deep breath and simply relax. Children’s emotions can change at the drop of a hat, and a perfectly healthy boy or girl can take years to fully develop the social skills we have. They might come home one day and say “I hate Hannah!” and then be best friends with Hannah within a week.
Get the Facts Before Acting
If you sense an ongoing problem with the way your kid is reacting with other children their age, then your first instinct may be to do something about it as soon as possible. Again, try to stay calm, and look at the situation as objectively as possible. If and when something happens that tells you that you need to take action, start off by getting all the clear-cut facts. Try to find some way of observing how your children interact with others, or talk to their teacher. Teachers can be a great source of information if anything is worrying you. They’ll usually know whether something is a typical issue that comes with their age, or an actual, serious problem.
You can also help along the child’s social skills by engineering social encounters, ones that match their current social skills, interests and capacity. If you’d like your child to have more friends, try to expose them to different forms of social interaction. Some children will do better in one-on-one encounters and organised playdates, whereas others will thrive in group-based team building environments. Some will like social activities to be short and sweet, whereas others will want to play all day long. Don’t be alarmed if your child rejects these opportunities. Some people, young and old, crave alone time, and even depend on it to be happy!
In many cases, parents who fear that their child is becoming isolated should worry less about actually doing anything in these situations, and concentrate more on listening to their child. If your kid complains about not having enough friends, then help them. If they seem to be happy with their social circle, then leave them be. The idea is to give them more control, and empower your child to find their own way. Always make a point to ask questions, and make an effort to understand their response.