• Maggie Hills

Building Your Child’s Social Skills: 3 Kinds of Children and How You Can Help

Sandra started at a new school this year. She's generally a friendly person, a little shy, but she had plenty of friends at her old school. Her parents weren’t worried.

Well, they weren’t worried until they realized their little Sandy wasn’t doing much over the weekends anymore. And she was always alone when she was picked up from school.

What's going on?

Friends are a huge part of a child’s life. Teens are at a stage in their brain growth where their social abilities are flourishing. In fact, research shows that teens are more influenced by their peers than their families. While parents are the first representation of society a child knows, as they grow, peer socialization becomes a more significant influence. This, next to learning, is one of the main functions of school. Your child’s friends are teaching her which behaviors are acceptable, and which are not. Socialization also helps your child develop their sense of self; who are they, and how to they fit in and influence their social group? This socialization builds your child's self-esteem and confidence.

So, what happens when your child doesn’t really have friends? Unfortunately, lack of socialization can cause low self-esteem, depression and anxiety. So how can we help your children develop and maintain those strong social skills?

The Smart Kid

We all want our children to be smart, but sometimes that intelligence doesn’t come across as well as it might. If your child is constantly talking about his grades, how he answered the teacher perfectly when no one else did, or even how dumb his classmates are, there may be something there to pay attention to. If other kids are calling your child a know-it-all, yes, that could be jealousy, or it could be a sign your child is accidentally alienating himself from the other children.

Smart kids tend to think their value is in what they know, and they are desperate to prove their worth. They have to tell everyone exactly how smart they are, they need recognition from the teacher, and they may even resort to putting other kids down, even just secretly to themselves, in order to make themselves feel better. If they focus so much on their studies and stop paying attention to the kids around them, they start to lose the ability to read social cues, leading to even more unfortunate interactions and an increased disgust with people in general.

The good news is, this kind of child is smart. If you can help him think out the eventual consequences that will follow when he creates a habit of either alienating his peers or dismissing them, what are the

probable outcomes? Will it give him what he ultimately wants? Encourage him to say exactly where his actions are taking him. Most kids realize very quickly the direction they are going.

If he can’t figure out what to do, recommend asking questions of others, even if your child initially doesn’t really care about the answers. Humans are endlessly complex and interesting. Challenge your child to find out different ways his classmates are not what he expected. You can even demonstrate this via your own interactions with his friends. Leading by example is one of the best ways to guide your child.

The Shy kid

Shyness is part introversion and part insecurity. Introversion is a wonderful temperamental characteristic. Introverts can be thoughtful, sensitive to others, and calm, among other strengths. They watch what is going on so they can better interact with others. What makes this temperament a bit difficult is that the tendency to hang back and observe before engaging can go a little too far.

If mixed with typical insecurities that come from growing up and the general peer comparisons that we all have to learn to overcome, introverts can spin out all the worst possible scenarios that could result from a certain social situation. When the downsides seem overwhelming, the upsides don’t feel worth it. When this continues for too long, social anxiety starts to set in leading to further withdrawal. The less experiences they have, the less social practice they get and the less they know what to do in a given situation.

Overanalyzing can be paralyzing. Sometimes you just have to take a risk and if you fail, you have to find a way to get back up. It’s hard. Building confidence is no joke. What you can do for your child is encourage her to articulate what exactly she is afraid of, then help her rule out the ridiculous. If some of the possibilities remain frighteningly possible, help her think through what will happen if she continues doing what she is doing now. Will things get better? Or worse? Sometimes all we can do is choose the best of two bad choices and struggle through. Welcome to life, honey.

The good news is you are right here to support her in getting back out there and giving it another shot. Humans make friends all the time. Your child can too!

The Weird Kid

We all want our children to feel free to express themselves. We love who they are, and we believe the world will see the value in them too. Yet, we can’t just let our emotions run away with us. Self-discipline and caring for the feelings of others are also important parts of living. Without social harmony, there is insane chaos. Without individuality, there's stifling order. There has to be a balance of personal expression and respect for others.

Does this mean your child should completely conform, destroying what makes him or her unique?

Absolutely not!

The beauty within your child is precious. It is meant for those who understand and value it. To find those people, a.k.a. friends, it is helpful to acknowledge the social norms of the circumstances your child is in. Social norms are merely meant to give us a baseline of how to act and how to treat others so that we aren’t on perpetual alert, watching vigilantly for the unexpected. When your child respects these unspoken standards, it is the same as respecting the people your child is interacting with. Once your child grows closer to a certain group, the social boundaries become more flexible and each is allowed to be more his or her authentic self within a wonderful group who truly appreciates it.

Everyone is different and must make their own way. We at Spark Tutors value the individuality of each of our students while simultaneously helping them grow and develop within the requirements of their grade. Finding pathways, making compromises, and discovering wonders throughout the academic journey is a powerful rehearsal for what life has waiting for us. We are proud to be a partner to you and your child as you move forward in this process.

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Finding the correct balance is the challenge of life as well as what makes it so interesting. Our hope is that readers are able to glean some insight or some ideas from this article that make things just a little bit easier. We’ll see you at the tutoring table!

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