If your child is struggling socially, it can be a challenge to get them out of their shell. Every parent wants to help their child to grow in their relationships and develop social skills but getting them outside their comfort zone can be a challenge. Try these tips to get your shy little one out of their shell!
- Enroll them in a class or activity
For some kids, making friends at school can feel a little overwhelming. The opportunity to form relationships while participating in a treasured activity, however, can be a lot less stressful. Try enrolling your kiddo in a class for an activity they can be excited about to ensure they’ll look forward to their class and that they’ll have plenty in common with the kids they meet there.
A small group class with an active sport or activity is going to be most conducive to socializing, such as soccer, cooking, or martial arts. An active class that encourages creativity, like ballet or dance, is great for putting kids in an open, friendly mindset while they’re playing with their peers. You can take your little one shopping to choose their favourite girls’ leotard to get them excited about their new activity!
- Organize a playdate
For shy children, getting to know a new friend can feel more relaxed when they’re within their own home. Invite over a classmate or peer from an activity or class to come play at your house to give your child a chance to get to know them. In a one-on-one activity or a small group, having conversations and forming friendships is a lot easier than it is when in a group of 20-30 children like they may be used to at school.
Plan a few simple activities and games for them to play during their playdate to keep things moving, such as providing some new art supplies for them to create together. Having an activity to direct attention for can prevent the play date from stalling or feeling awkward and keep the conversational juices flowing.
- Teach them about social skills
Like all skills, social skills are a learned ability that children gain over time. Some kids take naturally to social environments and don’t need help, but some kids would benefit from having social etiquette and conversational skills explained to them. Sit down and explain to your child appropriate manners to use when playing with a friend or peer. Go over appropriate topics of conversation, kindness and sharing, and how to handle an awkward or unpleasant social situation that they may be uncomfortable with.
You can even try doing a pretend role-play and pretend that you are a friend so they can practice their new skills on you. Practice modeling a conversation or activity they may have with a friend to practice those social roles and scripts before they’re with friends.
- Attend kids’ events and play spaces
While school can be an area of struggle for a lot of kids to make friends, more open-ended kids’ spaces can be easier. Visiting a playground, indoor park, or pool can often lead to meeting a lot of other kids who are looking for new friends to play with. Children’s events at libraries, bookstores, or local businesses can also be a great way to get out and meet kids to form relationships with. Finding events that center around your child’s interests is sure to help them find peers with plenty in common to start a friendship.
- Model positive emotional communication at home
A great way to ensure your child’s social skills is to model healthy social skills at home. If your child is used to enduring shouting, threats, or manipulation at home, it’s probable that they’re repeating those strategies with the friends they make at school. To help your child succeed socially and emotionally, the best thing a parent can do is to show compassion and warmth at home. Of course, no parent is perfect – but modelling healthy communication and care at home is sure to leave a positive impression on your child.
- Manage their social calendar – without controlling it
Young children are dependent upon their parents to manage their social calendar, including organizing playdates, enrolling in classes, and taking them to activities. Kids depend on their parents to assist them in forming strong friendships and social skills, and it’s important for parents to provide plenty of opportunities for social experiences. However, there’s a fine line between managing your child’s social calendar and controlling it. Parental monitoring during a playdate is appropriate but controlling their social interactions too much can result in kids rebelling against your guidance and refusing to participate in the activities planned for them. Give your child a reasonable amount of space and autonomy to ensure their rebellious nature doesn’t start to surface.
- Maintain your own expectations
Every parent wants to raise their child to be happy and well-adjusted but be sure to keep your expectations of your child within reasonable limits. It’s natural that a parent who grew up extraverted and outgoing would want the same happy childhood experience for their own kids. However, some children simply aren’t interested in being social butterflies. A quiet, introverted child may prefer to have a small number of close friendships than a large friend group and may prefer a quiet playdate of one or two friends to a huge party. Keep in mind that your child may have different standards for what their social life looks like than what you had thought.