Social Interaction and Children: Don’t Force the Issue


Kids are learning to live in their environment on a daily basis. There is a multitude of information being thrown at them at an alarming rate. Children’s minds are hardwired to make use of all of this data. The young years are when a child’s mind makes the connections that serve them throughout their lifetime. Speech, emotions, and social skills are all a part of learning to simply be human. Social interaction, however, may be desired in different quantities by various personality types. It is important to take into account your child’s individual needs.

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School
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School is one of the most intense social situations that children encounter. Think about how they go from being at home to all of sudden being surround by hundreds of strangers. Even children that attend daycare are only exposed to small groups. Parents often think something is wrong when their child comes home overwhelmed or is having difficulty coping during the early school years. Kids are trying to focus on academics with an incredible amount of outside stimuli going on in a school environment.

Social activity at school usually involves the breaking up of kids into groups. This happens over time, as they figure out who they have the most in common with. They also tend to break up into gender groups. Social interaction is not only encouraged, it is expected. Group projects and games force children to work together when they may not want to. These are, of course, skills that they need later in life. They do not, however, come naturally to everyone. It is extremely important to recognize how your child socializes at school.

Some may come home taking about 10 different kids they like, while others are focused on one or two. This is your cue as parents to realize what personality type you are dealing with. Some people are natural introverts and should not be forced to socialize in large groups. Many kids find a couple of close friends and are perfectly happy to keep the numbers low. These kids are ahead of their time, as they can recognize quality over quantity. They have no interest in collecting a large fan base. You can help your introvert by planning small play dates and teaching them coping skills for large group activities. They may feel very overwhelmed on a daily basis and need help learning to deal with large classrooms and group activities. Never refer to this as a problem, let them be themselves and give them the tools they need to navigate a world full of people.

Extracurricular Activities  

Extracurricular activities are a great way to get your child into a social situation that they actually enjoy. School is a place they have to be. Soccer or dance is somewhere they want to be. This also helps them to find other kids with the same interests. Listen to your child when they tell you what they like to do and find an activity that fits their needs. An art class may seem like it won’t initiate social activity, but you may be surprised. Sports are not the only group activities. If you have a little intellectual, find a book club or robotics class. There are often clubs that meet after school, as well. This can help kids meet people in their daily environment that share their interests. Extracurricular activities are a much more relaxed way of encouraging social skills. The kids can choose to focus on the activities while they are getting to know people.

Many families attend church or other regular activities on the weekends. This is another way to help kids meet people that share common goals. These family activities also increase the possibility of socialization, as families with kids often work together to plan activities. Church groups may have fun things planned like outings, volunteer work, or camp. Children should be able to participate in something they feel excited about, not something that feels forced or uncomfortable. Listen when they are not sure about something, and find an appropriate activity. Work together with other parents to provide group meetings in each other’s homes or at the park.

Friends 

Pay attention to you’re the friends that your child chooses. You can learn a lot by following their lead. Most kids have an idea of the type of person they want to spend time with. We all know how it feels when you are forced to talk to someone you have nothing in coming with. While conversational skills are important, children should be assisted in finding someone they “click” with. When they find a special friend, be sure to encourage the friendship by planning play dates, trips to favorite places, and good communication.

Children all develop socially at different paces. Their individual personalities and early experiences play a big part in how they respond to new people. Forcing of social activity can have an adverse effect, causing many to retreat further away when faced with large groups. Take care to listen to your child’s needs, gently introduce new situations, and teach coping skills.

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