3 Ways to Help Your Child Break Out of Their Shell
Date Posted:26 November 2019
We all encounter a certain level of social anxiety throughout our life. From starting a new school to starting a new job, we go through changes in social settings very frequently.
It can be tough as a parent to see your child struggling to make friends in social settings. As parents and educators, we want to see our children thrive in different social situations.
It is important that we start developing social skills from young so that children can gain a healthy level of confidence and emotional intelligence as they get older.
Social skilfulness is the ability of a person to interact with others in a way that creates a positive experience for both parties.1
There are two components of social skilfulness that need to be met for a child to feel more confident in a social situation — understanding social concepts and then putting them into action.
It’s important that children understand the meaning and importance of social interaction concepts — such as participation, cooperation, and communication etc. These concepts can guide the behaviour of a child in different situations.
Once a child understands these concepts, it is easier for them to acquire the skills needed in social interactions. However, this is not a problem for most children.
The most common problem a lot of children struggle with is not knowing how to put the above concepts into action. For example, many children understand that they should talk to the new kid in class, but they don’t know how to, or they want to join in on a game with their classmates, but they don’t know how to include themselves. I’m sure as an adult you could relate to this feeling even today!
There are helpful practices you can try with your child at home to gain some social skills, and help them thrive in future social situations that will follow through into adulthood.
The 3 exercises to help your child gain confidence in their social skills
1. Coaching Social Behaviours
A study done by a Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience2 — Steven R. Asher — and Professor of School of Education at the University of Queensland — Peter Renshaw has found that
children who are coached on appropriate social behaviours do well in social situations in the long-term.
As parents, you can coach your child in the comfort of your own home. Use your interactions with them or create hypothetical scenarios to talk about the different concepts and why they are important.
You can work your way through a list of bad behaviours3 and get them to think about what the equivalent positive behaviour is and encourage them to come up with examples through their own experiences. It will allow them to think of specific behaviours that are appropriate for the situation. Your child will be able to understand the concepts and why they are important in their own terms.
You can start with a simple bad behaviour like “hoarding items”. It is likely that your child would say the alternative to that would be to share their food, toys, etc. with their friends. Let them think of examples that they have personally experienced, and discuss why it is important that they share with others.
Play a game with your child and “act out” the social skill they shared with you. This helps them to learn to recognise the social skill, which will lead to the mental and physical acquisition of the behaviour. Many children also benefit from watching others interact successfully because they are explicitly shown examples of good behaviour that they should mimic.
When your child is playing alone or with their siblings, ask if you could join in. Display social skills that you have discussed with your child so that they can identify and acquire them.
Play a game that requires teamwork and cooperation to encourage your child to open up to their peers. For example, work with your child to stack a bunch of sticks and build a balanced tower using the Games to Go Turty game. The goal of the game is to stack different coloured wooden sticks on the back of a turtle without toppling the tower over. You can take turns calling out colours and picking out the correct stick to add to the tower. Kids will want to build the tower as high as possible and will often work with their peers to make sure that the tower does not fall over.
This game will help your child develop their colour comprehension and fine-motor skills, alongside developing their communicative and collaborative abilities that will help them gain confidence in social situations.
It is also important to discuss rejection with your child as it is one of the common reasons why children generally shy away from making friends. As parents, it is crucial to emotionally engage with your child for them to gain emotional intelligence. It increases empathy levels and helps them recognise their feelings.
They will also learn how to transform their negative thoughts into positive ones, which in turn will be beneficial to their overall self-esteem
3. Positive reinforcement
You can create further awareness of positive social behaviours and build your child’s confidence through positive reinforcement.
As your child develops their social skills and the understanding of the importance of those skills, it is now crucial to reinforce them so that your child will use them in real life. By rewarding them when they use those skills, it will encourage them to stick to applying that skill until they have mastered it in the real world.
Therefore, be sure to notice, comment, or praise your child when you see them using the skills you both work on!
This will also strengthen and stabilise your relationship with your child, which is the basis to nurturing good behaviours and social skills.
While children gain much of their social skill from schools and external influences, you can start by helping them develop these skills from home!
Many kids find socialising intimidating, but with enough practice and encouragement from home, they can develop skills and confidence to interact with other children.
With their confidence boosted, your child will be comfortable in social situations and will look forward to attending school or childcare!
If you have any questions or comments on how to inspire confidence in your child, get in touch with us here.
- Brunelli, A. (2016). Communication strategies: Assertiveness and boundaries (Link)
- Asher, S.R. & Renshaw, P.D. (1981). Children without friends: social knowledge and social-skill training. In S.R. Asher & J.M. Gottman (Eds), The Development of Children’s Friendships (pp. 273 – 296). (Link)
- Bloomquist, M.L. (2013). Making Friends: Teaching your child social behavior skills. Skills Training for Struggling Kids (pp. 107 – 113). (Link)
- Bullock, J. (1992). Children Without Friends: Who are they and how can teachers help? Childhood Education, 69(2), 92 – 96. (Link)
- Hart, R. (2010). Classroom behaviour management: educational psychologists’ views on effective practice. Emotional and Behavioural Difficulties, 15(4), 353 – 371. (Link)
- Webster-Stratton, C. & Reid, J. M. (2004). Strengthening Social and Emotional Competence in Young Children—The Foundation for Early School Readiness and Success: Incredible Years Classroom Social Skills and Problem-Solving Curriculum. Infants and Young Children, 17(2), 96 – 113. (Link)