All parents want their kids to make all the friends they can and have a healthy, thriving social life. However, whether due to shyness or a lack of opportunities, some kids struggle to tap into their social skills.
And, no one needs to tell you that this can break your heart. But, you can encourage your children to get more involved with those around them. It’s not as simple as forcing your kids to be more sociable, though; there are ways to gently nudge your kids towards a life where they are more sociable with anyone they interact with.
Here are a few of the best ways that I have found to help
Model Good Social Behavior
Kids, especially younger kids, will always look for their parents to model their behavior. This could be why your kids are not as sociable as they should be. If they have not seen you engage in social situations, they won’t know how to mimic you.
However, this can go the opposite way, too. Being almost too sociable can also be an issue. If your child doesn’t feel confident speaking to other people, they won’t feel comfortable being forced into social situations.
Try to balance sociability that encourages your kids to get involved with other people without feeling thrust into uncomfortable encounters.
Teach Them to Ask Questions
Once your kids feel comfortable speaking to people, you can encourage them to be involved in conversations. People who struggle with their social skills are told to ask questions, as people love talking about themselves.
Encouraging questions in kids from a young age by teaching them to be curious about different cultures or even find out about people’s day will make it easier for them to hold and maintain conversations. This will help them get over the initial awkwardness they might feel when speaking to new people.
Encourage Them Into New Environments
New environments are one of the best ways for people to learn more about themselves, so encouraging your child to explore new environments could be a significant step towards being more sociable.
These new environments will force your kids into unfamiliar situations where they need to adapt and engage with others. This could be a new sports club where they can’t look for you for advice or guidance, or even an all boys school that will teach them crucial life skills.
Again, not every environment will benefit them, so you need to make sure you listen to your kid’s feedback. It’s natural to be resistant at first. But if they continue to complain, it may be best to take them out of the environment.
Give Them The Chance to Pursue Interests
It might be that your child enjoys the new environment, and they develop a passion for whatever the activity is. If this occurs, you must give them the chance to pursue these interests so they can get to know their classmates or teammates better.
If you support your child in these interests, they will feel more confident whenever they play or perform, and this will directly encourage them to spend more time there, which will in turn give them all the tools they need to be more sociable. Often, shyness comes from not knowing how to interact with others, so exposure to how other people engage with those around them is certain to help them succeed.
Get Feedback From Teachers and Coaches
If your kid attends regular schools or goes to clubs in the evening and on weekends, you know that you can’t be with them all of the time. You shouldn’t look at this as a bad thing, though, as it gives them the chance to learn social skills by themselves.
Of course, you still want to know how they are doing at school, so you can chat with their teachers or coaches to learn whether they are playing or working well with others. Most of the time, you will get good news, but there might be some kids who struggle to make friends, especially if they’ve only just moved to a new school or club.
Invite Their Friends Back
Inviting their friends back to your home for dinner and playtime can help them build friendships outside of the allotted school hours. This gives your child and their friends the chance to get to know each other better. They can play video games together or explore the neighborhood, which will help them make lasting memories.
For many kids, these out-of-school-hours experiences are better for building lasting friendships. They are not restricted by the confines of school, but rather have the freedom to do whatever they want, within reason, of course.
Stop Comparing Them to Their Siblings
Every introverted child with an extroverted sibling will hear their parents ask why they aren’t the same as their brother or sister. Often, parents don’t think about how this will affect their kids, and they believe it is a harmless question.
However, hearing how they are not the same as their siblings can make your child think there is something wrong with them. You know that there isn’t, you’re just trying to encourage them to be more sociable. But they don’t know this, so avoid comparisons at all costs.
Get Familiar With Their Social Battery
Everyone has a social battery, and you need to become familiar with recognizing the signs that your kids don’t have the energy to socialize. This can happen with introverts but also children with ASD and even extroverted kids need time to recharge.
You won’t learn their social battery overnight. It will take time to recognize the signs of when they aren’t ready to hang out with others. Things like irritability and lethargy are two key signals, so keep an eye out for these, especially if they have been out all day.
It’s easy for kids to get too wrapped up in themselves, and while this can be good for their schoolwork, they also need a healthy network of friends to blow off some steam with. If your child seems shy or struggles to put themselves out there no matter where they are or how old they are, you can use these ideas to help them come into their own and flourish.