From the perspective of an adult – the childhood is a carefree and a happy period. For the kids themselves, this isn’t always the case. Growing up is marred by fears and anxieties, most of which come from the constant need to adjust to some social norm.
One of these is definitely the pressure to fit in, be popular, outspoken, and extroverted. These are all fine and useful skills, but not all kids have them (or want them for that matter). It’s a very difficult thing for a parent to see that their child is unpopular or even worse unhappy about it. There is always the dilemma between getting involved and helping your kid and being the parent who hovers over every aspect of their kid’s life.
There are ways to help without stepping over that line.
Teaching social skills
It’s pretty hard to define what social skills are, let alone to teach them. The best thing you can do is to lead by example. Think about the values you find important in a friendship (loyalty, honesty, empathy etc.) show them why they are important. Also, talking really helps. If your kid is having problems at school or feels left out – the first thing to do is talk it over. Reassuring the child about their worth and love is the cure in itself. But, don’t stop there. Go into details, talk about the particular problem they’re facing and try to find the solution together.
It may sound like a cliché, but sports are a really good way to build confidence and make friends. The team dynamic creates a sense of unity and closeness between the teammates. There’s a chance your kid isn’t all that athletic or feels like they wouldn’t get accepted. These are all reasonable concerns, but you should push on it anyway. The goal isn’t to create a great athlete. The structure of a team itself creates cohesion. Of course – you shouldn’t make your kid do something that makes them feel bad, but try to persuade them to give it a shot.
School can be a pretty limiting environment. Parties are a good way to get your kid and their peers out of it and let them bond in a more relaxed setting. Don’t go overboard and force them onto each other, but definitely, try – for instance, get some superhero kids party supplies and make it into a themed party. These kinds of events are usually talked about later on and it will help your kid’s reputation. It’s fine to involve other parents in the planning process, but don’t make the whole thing look too staged.
The fact that your kid is different doesn’t mean that there is something wrong. It’s perfectly fine to stand out and to want to pursue interests which others find unusual. Make sure you understand that and make sure your child does as well. It isn’t always easy to find out what individuality entails; nevertheless help your kid along on that journey. In a practical sense, that means that you should encourage a more individualistic and introvert activity as well. Reading, playing or just being alone doesn’t have to be a bad thing.
Putting things into perspective
Most people don’t find their true group of friends until their mid-twenties. It usually happens in college or on their first couple of jobs. All of these seems too far away, especially for a child, but try to help the kid put things into perspective. At this point, school and anxieties related to it may seem like the most important thing in life, but it’s just a phase and a minor one at that. Sharing your personal experience about school and difficult times in your life can help with this.
It’s hard to see that your kids are having problem making friends. There are two ways to approach the issue –to actively help them gain social skill and to provide encouragement and understanding. Both are equally important.