It’s World Friendship Day today and if the pandemic has taught us anything (aside from always to have a good stockpile of toilet rolls at home), it’s that friends really do rock our world. But for our little ones lockdown may have been quite tricky when it came to forming new friendships, and they may even have become shy and unsure of themselves, leaving them anything but socially confident. Fear not, parents, we’ve got some tips to help your tots to manage their worries to overcome their shyness and to help them manage any social anxiety they may be feeling about making new friends…
Practice social skills
Children learn best when things are fun and teaching them social skills is no exception. Whip up some role play scenarios with your little ones that include meeting new friends. Encourage them to use their ‘clear voice’ and use simple phrases such as, “Hi, I’m Katie. What’s your name?”. Meeting new people can be daunting even for grownups, so make meeting people a fun game to play at home and then start extending the fun into real life.
If you know that your child might be a little socially anxious about a play date / party /gathering that is planned, get there early so that they have time to connect with some other early arrivals without it being too busy and daunting.
Lose the labels
Try not to label your child as shy as this can sometimes reinforce shy behaviour. When someone asks your child a direct question and they hesitate to answer, don’t feel like you have to explain that ‘they’re shy’ but instead give your little one time to say a few words. If the silence becomes prolonged just explain instead that ‘he/she isn’t feeling very talkative today’ and let your little one know that that’s okay. Reassurance is everything and labels plain don’t help.
Arrange some play dates at your home
Supervised playdates in your own home are a great way for children to feel less anxious as being in a familiar, safe space will put your child at ease. Talk with your child before the guests arrive about what makes a good host and decide with your little one ahead of time what activities might be fun to try with their friends. Having some sort of structure and say in the proceedings will help them feel more in control and therefore less stressed.
Join a club
If your child is ready, joining a local club or enrolling for a Holiday or Out of School Club might be the next step in fostering new friendships without your child having to rely so much on Mum or Dad. Visit the club ahead of time to meet staff and let your child familiarise themselves with the team and schedule. We certainly know a thing or two about helping ALL kids settle into our Holiday and Out of School Clubs here at The Treehouse Club, and are always more than happy to speak to parents ahead of time to find out more about your child and any anxieties they may be having.
Happy World Friendship Day, everyone!