Parents want their children to grow into well-adjusted adults. In a way, developing social skills is more important than honing physical abilities or intelligence. No matter which path in life your child takes, they are guaranteed to come across situations in which they will have to deal with others.
But what if your child is having troubles interacting with other children? What can you do to help?
Five Things That May be Holding Your Child Back
1. Lack of Empathy: No one wants to admit that their child is the terror of the schoolyard. At home they seems like such a sweet kid. At times you may ask yourself "how could my child be so different when away from home?"
Children bully for different reasons. Sometimes it’s part of a pattern of aggressive behavior. Other times they do it because they feel insecure and bullying those weaker than themselves provides a sense of power that they do not otherwise feel.
You may try to find out more about who your child hangs around with. If they’re also bullies, your child may be seeing how they deal with their internal struggles by taking it out on others and copying it.
Try asking your child how she would feel if such things were done to them. Would that make them feel good? Why would you do mean things to others if you don’t want them done to yourself? Ask them why they bully other kids. Role play can also be a good way to help your child understand what the other person may be feeling.
2. Not Wanting to be Around Others: Developing social skills is harder for a child if they ostracize themselves from those around them. Some children play well by themselves and this isn’t a bad thing. However, it would be beneficial for your child to learn to play with others from time to time.
Try setting up some small, short play-dates to start. Find someone who your child seems to like. Picking a random child and trying to force him or her to get along with yours may prove to be troublesome.
Another idea is having your child engage in a group activity that involves something they like to do. Having them meet other children with similar interests can help to bring your child out of their shell. If this idea seems to daunting, a social skills group with a trained moderator could help build their confidence while engaging with peers.
3. Not Taking Turns in Conversation: Children can be quite excitable. So much so, that sometimes it’s hard to have a proper conversation with them because they’re so eager to breathlessly tell you about what happened to them today.
While this may not seem like such a big deal when it’s you that they keep interrupting (after all, when they grow up a little more they may not want to tell you anything), this may cause issues when they do this with other children and adults. It’s harder to make friends when every conversation is decidedly one-sided.
One method to help your child learn how to take turns in a conversation is the talking stick. Whoever holds the stick can talk, while everyone else must listen. Turn it into a game to help hold their attention and alleviate their frustration from not being able to talk whenever they please.
4. Not Taking Responsibility for Their Actions: You found another vase that has been knocked over. You go to the room where your child is playing with their friends and ask who knocked the vase over. Fingers quickly start to point everywhere.
Obviously, no one likes getting into trouble. However, taking responsibility for mistakes is part of growing up and will be even more important as your child gets older. Blaming others only makes the problem worse.
Try to help your child realize cause and effect. “Since you bumped into the table, your juice was spilt.” “Since you paid attention in class, you got an A+ on your math.”
Try to make a game of it. Give them a cause and ask for an effect. For example, “Mommy was tired so…”
5. Your Behavior: In the end, our children emulate us. Unfortunately, they don’t just pick up the good habits. Robert Fulghum, author of All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, says, “Don’t worry that children never listen to you; worry that they are always watching you.”
Remember, you are the role model for your child. Setting positive social skill examples in the home can help your child when they are at school or in other social situations.
How can I help?: If your child still seems to be having trouble adapting to groups, you may need the help of a mental health professional. Call me at (347) 758-2985 for a free 15-minute phone consultation to discuss your worries concerning your child.