Preparing Your Child for Social Interaction
Stepping out into the world and making friends and connections is something that can be frightening for adults, never mind for children. But every child must learn to put their fears aside and interact with others. But taking that first step outside their comfort zone can be the hardest thing of all.
There are ways that you can ease your child into the world of social interaction slowly, so that your child feels that it’s perfectly natural and offers little resistance to the idea.
The most important thing to remember is never to force your child into any type of interaction. This can turn them off completely to the idea and increase the likelihood of developing social issues down the line.
Every child reacts differently to meeting new people in their life. Some are curious and receptive, others are cautious and aloof. Recognising and responding to how your child reacts to a child entering their comfort zone will provide you with clues on how to proceed with getting your child to enjoy their interactions with other children more and willingly come out of their comfort zone.
Assess the Social Abilities of Your Child
Before you can begin to encourage your child’s social interaction, it’s good to have a realistic assessment of their existing social skills. Observe your child at play with a sibling or a neighbourhood friend. Do they look and listen to them when they speak? Are they able to take turns and initiate verbal conversations with them? Are they able to show cooperation with multiple children?
These are social skills 3-5-year-olds normally possess. If your child doesn’t yet exhibit these skills, you may have to go slower in encouraging them to leave their comfort zone. Be patient with them and allow them to make the decision in taking the next step.
Use Playdates as a Stepping Stone
Use playdates in your own home as a way to slowly introduce your child into interacting with other children. Your child naturally feels the safest in comfortable surroundings. They are more inclined to be the ones initiating the contact with others.
Encourage the child to show their friends their home and their belongings. This will give you a chance to assess how bossy, possessive or inviting and sharing they become and will give you clues on how to proceed to the next step.
Venture Out into the World with a Trusted Friend
If your child develops a friendship with another child that is positive and supportive, see if you can arrange for them both to experience a playdate for the first time in another location away from home. Children will often be more willing to experience something new if they know that a friend is beside them. They’ll be more inclined to be supportive of each other and reassure each other in denying any fear.
Once your child has reached the plateau of being able to leave their comfort zone willingly and eagerly, you can start to refine their social skills, as fear of the unknown will cease to be a large part of their thought process.
They’ll begin to interact with larger groups of children and show genuine interest in a new person who joins the group. They will also tend to discover the concept of liking and not liking someone. Because of these thoroughly human emotions starting to emerge, it’s important to begin including the concept of good manners in all their social interactions and to teach them the benefits that good manners can bring.
Refining a Child’s Social Skills
You want to allow your child to make their own mistakes (within certain limits) and realise the consequences of those mistakes. Allowing your child to make social errors and seeing the results is just as effective, if not more, in teaching them the proper way to act as to constantly be reminding them.
Your child will naturally begin to include in their thinking the response they get when they act properly and when they don’t. They’ll begin to see that the rewards of proper behaviour can be a growing circle of friends and acquaintances.
For other tips on how to encourage and develop your child’s social skills, contact The Apple Tree International Kindergarten in Bangkok to talk about the programmes they can offer towards your child’s social development.