There is nothing more painful than watching your child have difficulty socializing with other kids. Parents know how important social connection is and when you have a child who is extremely introverted, or shy, or perhaps they have a developmental disability like Asperger’s, they truly don't have the inherent skills to put themselves out there and make friends naturally.
Much of your time will be spent identifying how your child is uniquely special and what they can like about him or herself. Enhancing good self-esteem means that you assist your child in knowing what makes them unique and special. When children are not accepted by their peers, they will typically feel like they are outcasts and that they will feel like they don't measure up to the other children. Your job is to get them to see their own inherent strengths and to build upon them so they take the risk to cultivate friends.
Although you cannot do their work for them, you can certainly assist them in organizing events that will allow them to spend time with others. As a parent, this means that you must encourage them to socially connect to others. This can be difficult if your child lacks the confidence to have friends over, to participate in sleepovers, or to want to invite another child to a movie or to a trampoline center or to another event. You definitely have to go the extra mile to make sure that your child has opportunities that he would normally arrange for himself. Don't get discouraged if you have to do this several times as repetition will teach your child how to socialize in the world.
Your child will likely want to spend time with their phone or computer and isolate him or herself in a way that keeps them busy. Limit their tech time so that you can work on face to face contact.
I work with lots of adults who are inherently shy. It takes a lot of self-esteem boosting to assist them in seeing that they can truly accomplish a goal like asking a person out, or setting up an event outside of work, or asking the group to go out for dinner after a project. These people tell me that they wish they had learned how to do this in their childhood.
You can be instrumental in helping your child develop these skills. The hard part will be that your child will not necessarily want to take the risk to ask Suzie and Mary over to the house to spend the night. It may even involve some real persuasion to get them to take the risk. I encourage parents to model that behavior and to invite other children over to the house when they are waiting in carpool line in front of the school or they are gathering their kids at a school carnival or dance class. Take advantage of kid activities. Parents may need to roll model how to connect with others many times before a child takes the lead and does the same. Placing your child in an extra curricular event can also be helpful as it allows your child to role model inclusion in a group.
Parenting can be tough but if you break it down into “chunkable” moments, you will likely see small successes. And when you strategize how to make small changes in your child's daily functioning and it involves social connections, you'll end up seeing big results!
Carol Juergensen Sheets, LCSW PCC is a psychotherapist and personal life coach. SHe does motivational speaking and empowerment trainings locally and nationally. To find out more about her services, contact her at www.carolthecoach.com or call her at 317-218-3479. You can watch Carol the Coach segments on WTHR's Channel 13 Wednesdays at 12:50PM.