Helping Your Child to Socialize with Others
Posted on August 28, 2018 by CHS
Making friends and socializing with others is part of growing up and are skills that will continue to develop throughout a child’s lifetime. It is important to become familiar with the developmental milestones associated with a child’s socialization. Recognize that for toddler-aged children, it is developmentally appropriate for children to play alongside other children without necessarily interacting with peers. Preschool children then progressively develop relationships and interactions with peers, beginning with simple and brief interactions that, through time, develop into sustained and organized participation in cooperative play. For some children, socializing comes naturally; they go up to other children and play as if they’ve been best friends for years, but for others, it’s difficult to speak and sustain play with other children. Our blog will help you support your child in becoming more comfortable with making friends and talking to others.
Teach your child simple introductions she can use on a playground or wherever she might meet other children. Apryl Duncan from Live About suggests introductions like “Hi! I’m Becky. What’s your name?” or “Hi! Want to play?” Your child might not be comfortable with introducing herself at first because she’s not used to it. Have her practice her introductions with you to help her feel more at ease. She can later use these introductions with her peers.
Set up a playdate with the children of your relatives, friends, or neighbors. You can start by hosting playdates at your home, so that your child will be more comfortable with the environment. Since a group setting can be overwhelming for a child who’s still learning to socialize, start off in a smaller group such as one-on-one paired play. You can assist your child by gently initiating a conversation with the other children and then stepping back from the conversation once it develops and allow the children to continue on their own. If it’s a new location, arrive early to help your child get familiarized with the area. Teach your child the importance of sharing his toys and taking turns, as learning to share, compromise, and cooperate will be crucial to developing friendships.
You can help your child prepare for certain events, such as birthday parties. Initiate pretend play with your child, where you can pretend to be the birthday girl. Allow your child to wish you a happy birthday, eat cake, and play games together as if it were an actual birthday party. Using pretend play will help your child understand social expectations and be more relaxed with these types of events. Provide your child with simple tools for practicing socialization skills such as dolls, puppets, and books about friendship. Pretend play can also be used to prepare for the playground, playdates, and tea party-type scenarios.
Shyness is typical for young children and is often a sign of a developmental transition. If you are concerned about your child’s shyness, you can talk to your child’s pediatrician. Your child’s pediatrician may have recommendations for how to help your child with socialization or provide you with appropriate resources. Even if your child is too shy to talk with unfamiliar children, you can ask her to respond to greetings by simply smiling or waving. Once she has had the opportunity to observe the other children at play, she may feel more comfortable joining the group. When helping your child with socialization skills, remember that it’s the quality of friends, not the quantity of friends that matters. Continue to offer your child opportunities to play with other children her age, and role model social etiquette in your conversations with, and around, your child. Watching how you communicate and interact with others will help your child understand and repeat social expectations. Create a comfortable environment in which your child can continue to develop social skills and friendships naturally.
References and Sources
Is your Child Not Making Friends? Tips for Socializing Shy Kids
How to Help Your Kids Socialize with Others
Kids Who Need a Little Help to Make Friends
Center on the Social and Emotional Foundations for Early Learning
Ideas for Teaching Children about Friendship
Social Emotional Tips for Families with Toddlers
Social and Emotional Development Resources from NAEYC