Everyone needs social skills. It’s how we navigate the world of people around us, it’s crucial for most kinds of work, and it can help us grow a network of friends and family that helps us maintain our happiness as we get older. However, many parents have noticed that getting their kids to socialize is becoming a little more difficult. There are fewer neighbourhoods, it seems, where there are plenty of kids of the same age to get out and play together, often due to the fact that parents have to spread out to where they can find work. Digital technology, of course, is playing a role in keeping us more glued to screens, as well.
If you want to make sure that your child is growing the social skills, as well as the healthy social circle, that they need, then here are a few tips to help you do that.
Help them get into hobbies
Children get it easy, it might seem. They don’t need to find a shared interest or a point of reference to get along, they often just need to start playing with each other. That said, having that shared point of reference certain can help. You should look at some of the hobbies you can try with your child and, from there, see if there are any organized hobby groups that your child can become a member of. Whether it’s sports, arts, or something else, it’s a great way to make friends no matter the age. Having that kind of structured social space can also make it easier for you to meet other parents, which can lead to things like arranging playdates to make the social circle a little easier to grow for your child.
Organise supervised playdates
You don’t need a hobby or activity group to start looking at organised, and playdates. From an early age, you should reach out to other parents you might know with kids of the same age. There are even networking sites like Meetup that are used to arrange playdates between kids, but you should always take the time to investigate yourself to make that any you consider passes the sniff test. Playdates are a great way to get your child in a safe environment where they can test their social skills and practice with adult supervision. It might not always go well, but if it doesn’t, you just try again.
Consider getting them into education early
There are a lot of benefits when it comes to early years education like preschool and nursery, such as helping your child get more used to the educational environment, as well as developing their literacy and numeracy skills early to ensure they don’t fall behind. However, the social benefit of having them surrounded by children of their age while making sure that there is also an adult there to supervise and make sure that everything goes okay should not be underestimated. Look at facilities like Aurrum Kids and how they not only take care of your children’s educational needs, but foster a space that encourages children to get along, make friends, and develop the social skills that they will need. These kinds of establishments can be especially useful for those who might not live near other families or children, making up for a dearth of same-age interaction that can make later socializing tough for your child.
Help them come out of their shell
If your child is shy and doesn’t quite know how to make friends at school, it might feel to them like the first step alone is confusing and daunting. However, while they might always be a bit shyer than their friends, that doesn’t mean that it’s an immutable characteristic. You can help them make the first step. You can do this by, for instance, simply practising with them. You can pretend like you’re a child at school and engage in a little roleplay, encouraging them to approach you and talk to you for the first time. Teaching them things like simple introductions, how to invite other children to play, and demonstrating what friendship looks like can help them grow a little more confident about trying it out for themselves.
Take note if there’s a sudden difference in their behaviour
Perhaps your child has been putting themself out there already, socializing with other children, making friends, and playing with no problem. If there has been a sudden change in behaviour and they are suddenly becoming more shy and isolated, then it might be worth looking at why that’s the case. Take the time to gently gain their trust and encourage them to open up to you and that it’s safe to talk with them. Bullying is unfortunately a factor at almost every age. You can help them navigate the issue, or you can also see if a counsellor like those at Relationships Counselling can help them navigate any problems like anxiety or depression, which can affect children of all ages, not just adults. We don’t like to think of our children being in distress like this, but it’s better to be aware of the possibility rather than acting like it doesn’t exist.
Help them cope with stress and worry
Even if there isn’t anything particular at the route of it, most children are going to express some concern about their social standing and their relationships at some point. Here, it’s your cue to listen, to be empathetic and, when possible, to offer advice on how they can help navigate their friendships. Helping them express their emotions in a safe and healthy way with you can make them less likely to express it in ways that might harm their social relationships, as well.
The problem of increasing difficulty in socialization is not just a problem that affects children. It’s one they will have to navigate as they grow older, as well. Providing the social education and opportunities that they can use now, however, can help in future, so keep the above tips in mind.