Help Your Child Feel Comfortable in Social Situations
Some of our fondest adult memories are about childhood friendships and good times we shared with special friends. We hold on to times from our childhood that still bring smiles to our faces and lift our spirits. There are also memories that are painful.
No matter who we become later in life, having special memories makes our lives richer. To be liked and accepted as part of a group makes us feel good about ourselves and is good for our mental health. Peer acceptance is especially important to a young person's healthy growth and mental development.
The need to be "one of the gang" is stronger as children approach the teen years than at any other age.1 Children of all ages need to feel that they fit in—that they belong. Adults can help kids make this important connection by what they teach kids and how they live their own lives.
What you can teach your child
- To be polite—to say "thank you," "please," "excuse me," "I'm sorry," —beginning when he is very young.
- To respect other people's differences. We live among many different cultures, and he must be ready to have friendships with people who do things in a different way from his own families.
- To respect persons in authority—teachers, coaches, religious figures, a friend's parents, and the elderly.
- To show kindness—not to join others in teasing and bullying. No one likes a bully, and no one wants one around.
- To develop interests—hobbies, sports, community work/volunteering, or mentoring younger kids. Doing interesting things makes your child interesting and brings other exciting people into her life. It also helps build self-confidence.
- To exercise good sportsmanship—be a team member who looks out for the entire team and not just herself.
- To enjoy doing things on his own as well as in a group—a person who can enjoy his own company is good company for others. He is not always asking for attention from others.
- To be assertive—people respect your child for standing up for what's right and showing strength. It's ok to say "no" when it is the right thing to do.
- To be friendly—to have friends a person sometimes has to make the first move.
Begin promoting these positive behaviors at home with family members. If these actions are part of a child's daily life at home, she will continue them outside of the home.
Other good ideas include taking younger children to places and events where children don't typically go, so they learn early on how to act in such public places. You can also allow your child to play host with you at family gatherings in your home or when close friends visit. Give tasks to a child that he can do without too much help from you, and don't forget to offer praise later.
Reprinted with the permission of the Department of Health and Human Services.
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