There may be many reasons a child does not feel like interacting socially. The child may be shy, tired, uncomfortable in a new environment, hungry, feeling left out by the group, uninterested in what others are doing or even distracted by an imaginary story that (s)he is enjoying all on his or her own.
However, these are simply explanations as to why a child may not jump into a social situation, they are not excuses that mean that his or her continued solitary activities are for the best. If you are concerned about your child’s social behaviour then become proactive and plan a number of activities to encourage social interaction.
Role Play At Home
Some children avoid social interaction with others their own age because they do not feel confident in their social skills. Of course young children may not be able to verbalise this lack of confidence, but a general confusion about what to do with, or how to talk to, others could be clues that this is the case.
One easy way to clear this confusion is to role play at home. Without turning it into a lesson, “play pretend” with a child to allow him or her to get used to interacting with others. Pretend to be the butcher, the baker, the teacher or even a fellow peer and allow your child to practice making eye contact, making small talk and even politely ending an interaction. When (s)he seems comfortable with these steps, then look for ways to have him or her interact with others.
Whether you embrace or cringe away from the term “play date”, setting up a formal time in which your child interacts with others is one way of forcing the issue of social interaction. If your child does not generally feel comfortable in other people’s houses then you may want to start by inviting his or her peers to your home first.
Keeping the number small – just one or two friends to start – should help your child ease into social situations and become familiar with interacting with others. Providing a number of imaginative options such as arts and crafts, supervised cooking or even outdoor games will also encourage creativity and interaction.
Groups and Clubs
In today’s world there are groups and clubs available to children almost from birth. If your child needs a little push towards social interaction then consider signing him or her up for a more formal activity. Music lessons or singing in the choir, group art classes, a fun football league or even scouting activities may appeal to your child.
Be sure to discuss with your child where his or her interests lie however, as attempting to force a child towards an activity that holds no appeal could make the situation worse. Also, remember to discuss the rules of the group or club so that your child doesn’t end up confused about when to be social and when to remain silent.
Social interactions are not always easy for children. If your child seems to need a little help in this area, consider role playing, setting up play dates and/or enrolling him or her in a group or club to get the ball rolling. No doubt you’ll soon have a more social child than you ever imagined.