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At some point in our lives most of us have felt shy or uncomfortable in a social situation but shyness or social anxiety can be crippling for little ones, especially in their formative years. Learning how to be sociable, how to share, how to make friends, and especially how to get along with difficult people or those you have nothing in common with are all skills that have a huge impact on adult life.
If you’ve got a little one that struggles to make friends or be sociable, National Make a Friend Day this February 11th is the perfect day to see if you can help them overcome their fears. From taking up a group hobby to working on sharing and kindness, here are some things you can try.
As adults, we know that we don’t tend to enjoy the company of people who go on about themselves all the time. Encouraging little ones to be curious and interested in others will not only aid their ability to learn but will also help them to be more sociable and to ask other children questions about themselves, which is a sure-fire route to making friends.
Similarly, selfish or miserly people don’t make friends easily. From an early age, try to encourage your little one to help others. Whether that’s helping their nan do the washing up or giving to charity, little ones who want to be kind and helpful are likely to make friends more easily.
If you have a shy child, it’s likely that pushing them into a playdate with a child they don’t know is their idea of hell. Rather than forcing your child to be sociable, encourage them into situations where making friends is a bonus side effect of what they’re doing, rather than the end goal. Helping them to discover a new hobby or activity is a great way of doing this; having something to do in a group helps to get rid awkwardness while meeting other children with a shared interest will give your little one a better chance of making friends.
An important lesson for children to learn is that they’re not going to get on with everyone all the time. Teaching them how to deal with situations where someone else has been mean to them or how to find common ground with others who are different to them is much more important than sheltering them as it will make them a much more well-rounded, understanding, and tolerant adult.
We all know our little ones tend to mimic our behaviour and this is no different when it comes to developing social skills. Try to lead by example in being kind and observant and interested in others in situations where your child is likely to be watching you. Try not to be mean about others, always share, and be affectionate with your children as much as you can, and they should end up following suit. Of course, no one is perfect, and we can’t all be angels all of the time but the harder you try to set a good example, the easier it should be for your little ones to act the same way.
Remember, tell your little one to just be themselves and they’ll make all the right friends they need this National Make a Friend Day!