What does every parent want? For their child to grow up to be a happy, well-adjusted adult with the necessary social skills to succeed in life. Good social skills are crucial for building friendships and learning how to empathize with others. Don’t worry if your child is shy and isn’t making friends as easily as other children. Your child doesn’t have to be a social butterfly, just have a few good friends.
Can social skills be learned? Yes, they can—just like any other skill. The fundamental ones that preschool children need to master are: listening, taking turns talking, following instructions, following the rules, getting along with others, asking for help, being kind, and helping others. These skills give children the building blocks to develop and maintain friendships. They also give children the ability to cooperate and improve their self-control.
Modeling positive behavior at home is a simple way to nurture your child’s social development. Children are always watching and listening.
What parents do is just important as what parents say.
Good manners, helping others, self-confidence, and treating others with respect are good social skills to model. Preschoolers who frequently play with their parents develop strong social skills. When children feel that they are good partners to play with, they become more confident and are more likely to engage in independent play with other children.
Demonstrate strong social skills to your child by modeling kind and polite behavior outside the home. Having confidence when relating to others and being friendly to new people can help your child overcome shyness. Start conversations with parents at the playground to show your child how to “break the ice”. Set an example by holding the door open for others and encourage your child to do the same. Let someone go in front of you at the grocery store. Allow your child to accept the receipt from the cashier at a store, answer the phone, or order a meal at a restaurant. These supervised activities bolster a shy child’s confidence and independence.
It’s important to acknowledge your child’s fears without dismissing them. Point out that it is possible to overcome feeling insecure and that you can develop strategies to overcome shyness together. The more opportunities that your child has to interact with others, the better. It is crucial to encourage and support your child’s friendships even if it means going out of your way to accommodate playdates.
What measures can you take to help a shy child? Prepare, in advance, for different social situations. You’ll see a marked improvement in your child’s stress levels. All it takes is a little extra planning. Visit the dentist’s office days before an appointment to meet the staff and talk about the check-up. Understanding what to expect will decrease your child’s anxiety.
Your normally chatty child might become clingy when you arrive at your preschool. Bring your child to the preschool a few days before classes start to become familiar with the facility’s layout and the teachers. Let the teacher know about your child’s shyness so that a plan can be created to help your child feel more at ease.
Your child might feel stressed about going to a friend’s birthday party. It’s not unusual for shy children to need time to warm up to a new situation. Go to the party early so that your child can meet each guest as they arrive. This is less stressful that arriving at a party that is in full-swing.
Tell your child that nervousness is a part of normal life and that it affects most people every day. Reassure your child that it’s okay to feel that way. Role play different scenarios at home by practicing handshakes and having conversations with each other and stuffed animals.
Shy behavior can be a result of negativity. Children may anticipate how they’re going to feel beforehand. Use positive reinforcement and remind your child of fun times that were had instead of focusing on the event causing stress. Regular routines are important because shy children have trouble adjusting to new faces and situations. For large family gatherings, holding a familiar toy can give a child a little bit of security. For extracurricular activities, sign up for an individual sport one year and then a group sport the next year.
Above all, it is essential to let your child experience different social situations. Constantly expose your child to new people, places, food, music, and cultures. It takes time to learn good social skills. Be patient and relax. Show your child that socializing is a fun part of everyday life and the rest will follow.