If you have a child who doesn’t interact with other kids all that often, you might hear chatter from other parents about their own children spending weekends being socially active and wonder why yours doesn’t do the same. If such is the case, it’s understandable to wonder what it all means and whether your child is developing healthy social habits.
First of all, don’t panic. Not all children evolve the same way and at the same speed. If you want to lead your child down the right path, it’s best to know about the many stages of social development to help him or her adjust behaviour accordingly.
Before 11 years old
Up until the fourth or fifth grade, children communicate together through games with little or no conversation. This means the relationship of a child under 11 is defined by the capacity to follow the rules and interest in games, not by one’s personality.
An agitated child who finds it hard to follow rules will have a hard time making friends during this period. If so, do not hesitate to speak frankly (but kindly) about the reasons why other children may find it difficult to play to him or her.
11 years old onward
Children will begin to appreciate the art of conversation and what makes them appreciate some people over others. It can be a rough time in a child’s life as kids are all constantly judging each other on very personal matters, which can sometimes lead to hurt feelings. It’s especially hard for shy children, as well as those who are a lot more or a lot less mature than others, as they won’t blend in as easily with other kids who share common experiences and interests.
Enrolling your children in extracurricular activities will ensure they spend time with other kids from school doing something lighter than studying, but more supervised than recess. Schools offer a variety of after-school recreational courses, so brush up your school’s reading material carefully.
During the holidays, you can let your child invite other children to your home so your he or she doesn’t feel lonely. Or, conversely, take your kid outside and head to the park. There, they’ll find loads of opportunities to make friends, play and talk, and these summer friendships will mean so much more because those involved will be the only ones to know about their adventures.
Loner or rejected
It’s hard to know for sure if your child prefers flying solo or is rejected by peers, but in both cases, it’s important to have good reflexes. Some people enjoy solitude more than others. They like to do things their way and focus on making sure that they do it properly. If your child is like that, he or she will likely resent being asked hundreds of questions about a social life that he or she genuinely doesn’t care about.
As long as your child doesn’t seem unhappy, let him or her manage relationships as he or she deems fit. Maybe having boatloads of friends isn’t high on their priority list and if there are one or two with whom your child gets along amazingly, it’s probably enough to do the trick.
If your child, however, is saddened by loneliness, it could be a case of rejection by his or her peers. Again, extracurricular activities will help develop new social strengths and help win a few popularity points that are appealing at that age.
However, if the situation seems critical—if your child is bullied and is very affected by the situation—listen to everything he or she has to say and swiftly take appropriate action.