Most parents monitor their child’s cognitive development in milestones from a very young age. For instance, you may remember the first day your child took a step or recited the ABCs. However, his or her social milestones may require more of an effort to gauge and even more of an effort to teach.
As a parent, you play a key role in your child’s social development. The social cues and exchanges you teach your child can make a huge difference in his or her life. Here are a few things you can do to help your child gain strong social skills before preschool.
Try finding a family in your area who has kids near your child’s age. Then invite them over for a playdate. It may help if the other children are slightly older than your child because older children tend to initiate friendships sooner than younger children do. If possible, choose a family your child has seen before to help him or her feel more comfortable. Keep the playdate to one or two hours. This will give your child a chance to meet new people but not overstimulate him or her.
When the other kids arrive, organize games and activities that you know your child enjoys. This will help you child feel more comfortable and confident. When possible, maximize positive interactions between the kids. You can start a game of hide-and-seek or an art project. Remember to keep the focus on your child. Get things going, and then hang back and let your child learn how to interact. < /p>
Teach Your Child How to Socialize
Often kids rely on their parent’s example when it comes to learning social skills. To give your child the chance to see how to interact, invite your own friends to your home. Your child will see appropriate behavior from how you treat your friends.
You may also want to teach your child a certain trait, such as empathy. You could take food to your sick neighbor, make a card for your parents, or surprise a friend with a gift. Remember that the experiences your child has inside the home will influence their social interactions outside of the home.
Encourage, Don’t Pressure Your Child
Near the age of three, children begin to interact with other kids on a social level. Before this age, most children play side by side and imitate the others actions. Depending on your child’s age, encourage him or her to interact appropriately.
If your child feels that you don’t approve of his or her interactions or friendship skills, your good intentions may backfire. Your child may already feel insecure around other children, and the pressure can fuel this insecurity. Instead, encourage and teach, but never pressure social interactions. Set the stage for the interaction then leave the rest to him or her.
Allow your child to show you what kind of interactions he or she likes most. For example, you will see whether he or she prefer larger groups or one-on-settings. Perhaps your child tends to be the leader rather than a follower among peers.
Help build your child’s confidence by pointing out his or her strengths. Show him or her that it’s okay to laugh at your own mistakes when relating with others. Your interactions with your child will both build confidence and show him or her how good friends should act.
As you play with your child, listen to him or her without criticism. Give compliments when you can and help your child look on the bright side. This will help build emotional control when it comes to social situations later in life.
Consider Buying a Pet
Most children feel shy and insecure when they first start to interact with other children. If your child tends to stay away from other children, consider buying a pet. Interacting with a pet away from parents will help your child learn social interactions in a nonthreatening environment.
Don’t worry if your child struggles with social interactions at first-most children do. Use these tips to prepare your child for preschool and enjoy his or her company while you can.