A lot of kids are a little behind in their social development skills. Shyness is often the culprit, but overprotective parents also contribute to children that have difficulty with properly socializing with their peers.
So, what can you do if your child is a little behind the socialization curve? First thing to do is to not panic. You are most definitely not alone. Second, start working on basic social skills with your child.
1. Lead by example
One of the best ways to empower your kid's social skills is to lead by example. Show them how to be a good friend by being one yourself. Always be sure to be respectful, considerate, and kind to others, in your child’s presence.
Start small conversations with people you encounter carrying out daily tasks, such as store cashiers, and encourage your child to ask a question. Show them how you celebrate joyfully with others. Let them see you praise people generously and disagree with others respectfully.
2. Encourage them to play with other kids
Another great way to empower your kid's social skills is to encourage them to play with other kids. This will help them learn how to interact with others and make friends.
Teach children how to cooperate and get things in a socially acceptable way. For example, saying "please" and "thank you" instead of grabbing things and running away. Reward good playing behavior by letting your child earn fun things when they practice or interact well with others.
3. Encourage them to join a club or sport’s team
Another great way to empower your kid's social skills is to encourage them to join a club or sport’s team. This will help them meet new people and make friends.
There will likely be a lot of other kids at these events that are also struggling with their social skills. Make sure the leader of the group or sport is outgoing and will encourage lively banter.
4. Help your child practice talking to others
Assist in your child’s social skills by helping them practice talking to others. You can do this by role-playing with them, or having them talk to people in real life situations.
Keep this light and fun so as to not come off as unnatural or unauthentic. Kids aren’t stupid, and will immeditely know when they are being patronized.
5. Teach them how to handle rejection
Finally, it's important to teach your kid's how to handle rejection. This is an important skill that will help them in all aspects of their life. Recognize and validate their emotions when they are told “no” and have a meltdown.
After calming them down, explain why their reaction is not appropriate, and how said reaction will be viewed by other kids. Remind them that rejection goes two ways, and that they will inevitably be on the giving end. It’s okay that they disagree with others, just as it is also okay for others to disagree with them.
Kids are resilient. Kids are fast learners. It won’t take long to get your child “up the speed” socially if they are a little behind. Patience, and encouragement, on your part will have them resembling social butterflies in no time.