Every parent wants their kids to be accepted by their peers and have friends who they can play with and rely on. However, it is not unusual if your child is shy or needs some time to warm up to others. With the new school year fast approaching, help your kids develop the necessary social skills to better navigate the complex social world both in and out of school!
Go over social overtures and cues
Teach your kids how to start a conversation or join a group of children already playing together with phrases like, “Hi! May I sit with you?”, “My name is Chris. What’s yours?”or “I like Spongebob Squarepants. What do you like?”. You may even choose to discuss and brainstorm potential conversation topics to help them kickstart or add to conversations, together at dinner or on the way to school. It is also vital that you go through what it means to take turns and share.
Build their EQ by training them to identify verbal and non-verbal cues. Teach them how to differentiate between different tones of voice by asking them to identify the emotions of their favourite characters on their favourite television shows. Since most children shows often show joyful characters, you may also choose to record your voice as you speak in a range of volumes and tones to display other emotions such as anger, sadness and disappointment. As for non-verbal cues, print and cut out people showing different facial expressions and discuss what these expressions may mean. Also, you may choose to point out how characters from their favourite shows use different gestures to express their feelings.
Remember that you are a role model for your children and they will treat others the way you treat them. Thus, it is crucial that you start by treating your kids with respect, especially by giving criticism in private rather than in front of their friends. While you should confront the situation when your kids knowingly or unknowingly disrespect their friends, do so only in private if it could embarrass your child. By doing so, they will feel like you took their feelings into consideration and are more likely to think of how others may feel before acting out in future. You may also remind them to have consideration for others by asking them how their friends may feel about their actions whenever they relate their day. While doing so, encourage them to do nice things for their friends such as sharing their sweets so that their friends feel happier during the long school day. Additionally, you may want to explain personal space so that they have a better understanding of how to create a comfortable environment when they play with their friends!
Teach them how to handle anger constructively and resolve conflicts peacefully by role playing different scenarios. For example, you may play the friend that gives them trouble in school. Coach them to handle the tough situation in an amicable manner such as saying, “It hurts when you push me like that” and “Please ask before you borrow my stationery.” instead of “Stop pushing me, you’re mean!” and “Why did you take my stationery without my permission?”.
Do not label shy kids. Instead, acknowledge that they may take a while to warm up to others but remind them of the times they enjoyed play time with their newfound friends despite initial shyness. If your child takes it hard on his/herself for being shy and awkward, be encouraging and try to role play different scenarios to build their confidence in making friends. If your child is very shy, set up personal goals like making one new friend every alternate day and compliment your child when he/she fulfills this. Remind your kids that you will not force them into any social situations, but add that you expect them to make an effort.
Support your children’s friendships. Remember the names of their friends and encourage your child to talk more about them so that your kids feel listened to and understood. Help them work through any conflicts that come up and create opportunities for you kids to play with their friends outside school whenever possible.