Your Child, the Social Butterfly

Oct 2, 2012

Now that your child has completed a full month of school, you may have discovered that he or she needs a little practice interacting with peers on a regular basis. This is totally normal, especially for children who are having a first school experience. It is not easy for a child to transition from interacting with others on a sporadic basis, or with children he or she is very comfortable with, to interacting with a large group of unknown children.

At this point, your child has had time to transition into being part of a class, but the day-to-day social skills may not be mastered at this point. This is an expected bump in the road; however, it can be heartbreaking for parents to find that their child may be struggling with these interactions. It is also hard for parents who have children who function well with regular social interactions, but are now exposed to children who struggle socially.

No matter what your child’s skill level is socially, here are some great ways to encourage positive play with other children:

  1. Go to the park. Going to the park allows your child to come in contact with many children in an environment that has few restrictions. The park is a great place for children to have interactions with others, but there is little risk. If your child does not enjoy playing with a specific child, he or she can move on and play with someone else or just move onto another piece of play equipment. It also allows parents to observe children in action. Take notice of how your child plays. Does he or she engage with other children? Does he or she initiate contact or does he or she wait to be approached? How does he or she deal with a group of children? Is he or she equipped to deal with conflict alone, or does he or she need you to intervene?
  2. Schedule play dates. Play dates are a great way for children to build relationships and cultivate friendships. Children gain confidence by voicing their feelings for other children and are validated when parents arrange time for the relationship outside of school. It also gives your child time to practice social interaction skills in a small group setting or a one-on-one setting. Just like everything else in life, practice makes perfect with social skills too. Once again, take note of how your child interacts with the other child or children.
  3. Be a model of social skills. Your child is always watching you, as you have probably already observed; use this as a way to teach your child. Model good manners, react calmly when faced with conflict in front of your child and narrate your interactions whenever possible. Make a point of saying please and thank you. If someone smiles at you, smile back and point that out to your child. If another driver cuts you off, point out to your child that you feel unhappy about that person’s actions but sometimes others do not behave how we might like. It is important to show your child that managing emotions is a part of social interaction.

Remember that children who are just beginning their school careers need much more time and practice to learn and master social cues and all that is associated with regular exchanges with other children. School is the best place for kids to work on becoming a social butterfly. Teachers are focusing on this aspect of your child’s education at this point in the school year; feel free to take advantage of your child’s teacher’s expertise and experience.

Wishing you peaceful parenting,
Christin Clark