Help Your Child Feel Comfortable in Social Situations (page 2)
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.
How your lifestyle can be a positive model for your child
- Show kindness in the home. Treat your child as an individual and respect her tastes—even if they are different from the rest of the family.
- Respect your child's privacy and private time as much as possible.
- Be careful what you say when your child can hear you. Try not to speak negatively about others when he is around.
- Take a stand on behalf of others.
- Have special interests and hobbies of your own and share your enjoyment of them with your child.
- Show interest in community activities and service to others—get the whole family involved.
- Don't embarrass your child by your actions, especially in public places. Avoid the use of alcohol and other substances and loud and disrespectful speech; never drink and drive.
- Don't be the "soccer Mom" who yells at the coach and insults the other team members because they are winning. Let your child see you cheering the other team's good efforts, even while you are cheering for your own team.
- Have a happy outlook on life.
Feeling connected makes us feel secure. Children with strong ties to school, friends, community, and family have a greater sense of security. Altogether, this mix works best to make a child mentally healthy.
What To Know
Healthy self-esteem is a child's armor against the challenges of the world. Kids who feel good about themselves have an easier time handling conflicts and resisting negative pressures. They tend to smile more readily and enjoy life. These kids are realistic and generally optimistic.2
1U.S. Department of Education Helping Your Child Through Early Adolescence: Friendships, last referenced 7/11/2003.
2KidsHealth.org: Developing Your Child's Self-Esteem, last referenced 7/11/2003.
Reprinted with the permission of the Department of Health and Human Services.
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