Some children easily get comfortable and good in social situations, but this doesn’t come naturally to all children. Both my children are slow are slow to “warm up” and need to practise social skills in small, manageable steps. They need to learn to be more confident and comfortable interacting with other people.
1. Do not label the child.
When a child is hiding behind mommy when meeting a stranger, many people will said “She is shy”. And parents want to ease the situation by saying “She is shy”. When a child is constantly being labelled as “SHY”, she will become “MORE SHY”. Labelling a child as ‘shy’ can make her feel there’s something wrong with her, or there’s nothing she can do about her shyness. If other people say your child is ‘shy’, gently correct them in front of your child. For example, ‘‘Lily takes a little while to warm up. Once she’s comfortable she’ll be happy to play’. This sends the message to your child and others that you understand how she feels, and she can deal with the situation when she’s ready.
2. Give your child time to feel comfortable.
- Do not focus on the child. Mommy continue to carry the child and adults continue to talk to each other but do not talk about the child. While talking, you will notice that the child will peep once and then to monitor if if is safe. Because the child does not know you and you are a stranger to her.
- Don’t make your child go straight into the arms of a less familiar adult. Instead, encourage the adult to play with a toy near your child and use a calm voice. Stay with your child in social situations, like playgroup or parents group, while encouraging her to explore. As your child gets more comfortable you can gradually move away for short periods. Just come back before your child gets upset so her experiences of venturing out are positive.
- Prepare mentally. When in a new environment, mommy should continue carry the child and introduce her to environment and people. This is Granda, that is Grandma, and that is the cutie Ms. Katie. While still holding the child, you should ask “Are you ready?” If is very important to ask so that the child is prepared mentally.
- Observe first, greet later . Some child does not dare to look eye-to-eye to a person but many parents will rush the child to greet the person. Parents can teach the child to observe the person characteristic/ feature/ environment/ what happened first, then they are more willing to look/greet the person. Example “Wow, aunty’s bracelet is very beautiful and colourful”. If you straight away request them to look at people, this type of shy children is unwilling to do so.
3. Model confident social behaviour
Your child always watch and learn from you. For example, when someone says hello to you, always say hello back.
4. Encourage & Praise ‘brave’ behaviour
Respond to others, using eye contact, or playing away from you. Be specific about what your child has done – for example, ‘Mimi, I liked the way you said hello to the girl in the park. Did you notice how she smiled when you did that?’
5. Practise social skills (for school-age):
- Playdates. Connect your child with few child of her age friend/ her school friends to build up her social skills.
- Extracurricular activities. Any activities that encourage social behaviour such as sports.
- Show-and-tell. Practise with your child at home so that she feel more comfortable taking in front of others.