It doesn’t take long to notice that each of our children are different. Some are less outgoing than others and each has their own temperament. For those children of ours that are more reserved and less outgoing than the others, there are things we can do and skills we can teach so they can feel more comfortable in social situations and around new people.
DON’T BE EMBARRASSED
It can be embarrassing to have our 4 year old hiding behind our legs, refusing to talk to our friends, or co-workers. We think it makes us appear like we don’t have control over our children, or that they don’t respect us enough to OBEY. Or that we haven’t taught them. We have to get over those thoughts. If others judge, it is their problem. We know our children best. We need to do what is best for them. Don’t let what others think affect our actions.
DON’T LABEL YOUR CHILDREN
When we label our children, they are more likely to “become” that label. When your child gets asked a question, and refuses to answer, the last thing you want to say is “he is just shy”. The more you say it, the quieter your child will become. Don’t let others label your child either. “Are you shy”, shouldn’t be something your child has to hear from others. When someone does decide to label your child, respond by saying something like, “No he isn’t shy, just not very talkative right now”. This is a much better approach than labeling.
DON’T RESCUE YOUR CHILD
We don’t have to answer for our child when they won’t talk. When we are in the situation, just go on with the conversation and let your child participate when they are ready.
DON’T FORCE OR PRESSURE
Pressure will most likely turn into a power struggle where your child will act exactly how you don’t want them to act, just to prove that they are in control.
PREPARE YOUR CHILD BEFORE HAND
Explain to your child what will take place in the upcoming situation. Explain that there will be new people who want to say hello and ask them their names and shake their hands. Give them a good idea of what will happen so they are not caught off guard. Don’t just explain what will happen, but talk about what you expect them to do also.
EXPOSE YOUR CHILD TO ALL DIFFERENT SITUATIONS
Don’t shelter your child. Expose them to lots of different situations with different people. Give them opportunities to be social, but don’t force them to perform. Give them lots of new experiences and opportunities. Don’t shelter them.
ARRIVE EARLY AT SOCIAL GATHERINGS
Often times, kids just need a few minutes to feel comfortable in situations. Arriving early to social situations, gatherings and parties will allow your kids a few minutes to “take inventory” of the setting, and even meet a few people before the “crowd” arrives. It gives them time to warm up to the people and the environment. They are able to already establish their position in the environment instead of “walking into an environment already in progress”.
PRACTICE SOCIAL SKILLS
Role play is a very important teaching tool. Role playing will help build your child’s confidence. Practice making eye contact. Practice what to say when they meet someone new. Practice how to introduce themselves. Practice speaking loud enough so others can hear them.
FAMILY GATHERINGS and LEADERSHIP OPPORTUNITIES
When your family is together and you know your child is comfortable, give them the opportunity to lead and be in charge. Use situations that are already occurring and give them special tasks and assignments. If you are a member of the LDS church, a great place to do this is Family Home Evening. Give your child the opportunity to conduct the meeting. Teach them public speaking skills, and let them practice.
Kids have their own personalities and inner feelings. Instead of assuming and labeling, work with them a little and you will see huge differences in their actions when it comes to public situations. All kids need to learn the skills, it is just quicker and easier for some than others. Be patient. There is truth to the fact that it can be a phase, or an age, and know that with time, things will get easier for them and you.
DO YOU HAVE A CHILD THAT IS MORE RESERVED AND LESS OUTGOING? WHAT DO YOU DO?