Ankita is someone who welcomes new experiences and new people. She looks forward to any opportunity to socialize and is the first one to jump into a conversation easily. She has plenty of friends. For her, being friendly and outgoing is natural, energizing and fun. And it doesn’t take much effort at all.
Other children are more like Ankita’s friend Rohan. Ever since kindergarten, Rohan has been kind of standoffish, hesitant and shy. He prefers to warm slowly to new people or situations.
One of the most challenging things to handle as a parent is how to teach your child to open up, particularly when it comes to making new friends or getting along in his/her peer circle. But if you start early, you can provide your child with the tools and the confidence to become friendlier.
Helping with New Things: For young children, new and unfamiliar situations can bring out shy feelings – like the first day in school, meeting someone new, or speaking in front of a group for the first time. What will happen? how others will react?, not being sure how to act? are feelings that trigger shyness among children. It helps, if the parent speaks to and gently encourages the child before any new event. When a child feels sure of the situation, and knows what to expect, they are more likely to open up and be confident sooner.
Understanding Anxieties: Sometimes minor issues such as – being too short or too fat – prevent children from reaching out and making friends. The fear of not being like others in the group makes them loners. If this sounds like your child, listen up to your child. Respond in a sympathetic way, in a comforting tone while offering advice (and not pushing it in) on how to respond to his friends or situations.
Practicing to Open up: Being themselves around others also needs practice. If you’re trying to make your child become outgoing and have more fun socializing –exposed them to practice ‘social behaviors . Take them to your neighborhood park to play, picnics, marketplaces, extra-classes or even for shopping groceries. The more practice they have in social behaviors the earlier they get, and the more natural they feel for the child.
Starting a Conversation: Children, who were chatter boxes when they were little, may sometimes become reticent as they approach their teens. This could be due to a variety of reasons. They may feel their growing interest in the opposite sex will be misunderstood by parents; they might be feeling awkward to ask another on a date; or their new found views may not conform to their parents or peers. These confusions may result in not wishing to open up. Encourage them to speak up by starting conversations yourself. Sometimes simple questions such as “How was your day today?” or “Why don’t you ask your friends to come over?” can be a great conversation starter.
Finding Friends who enjoy Similar Activities: If your child likes a particular activity e.g.: swimming, tennis or music classes try to get to know others who enjoy the same. He’ll find it easier to make friends with other children who enjoy doing the same things as he does, and in the process open up more.
Offer Guidance: Children must be made to understand that sometimes it may be hard to make friends, but they need to give it a try. Show your child how to go up to another child, be assertive, have a confident body language, how to smile and make conversation by asking simple questions regarding school, grade, favourite sport etc.
Instill Values: Show your child how to be a good friend. Explain the importance of good manners, loyalty and taking up for someone, when it’s the right thing to do. Teach him to be kind, give compliments, and be empathetic and being non-judgmental. Discourage him from exaggerating and bragging. Making friends with children from different backgrounds will help your child accept and get along with everyone right through to his adulthood.
Set an example yourself: Exhibit warmth in all your relationships and meet new people with a smile. Your child will learn more by your watching you rather than by following verbal instructions. You could try explaining that no one is perfect and maybe even highlight some of your own drawbacks to drive the point home.
In addition, encourage your child to smile. A smiling child is seen as happy and approachable. Practising social skills can help children overcome shyness, build confidence, and get more enjoyment from everyday experiences.