How Parents Can Facilitate Social Success for Their Children (page 2)

By — NYU Child Study Center
Updated on Jul 9, 2010

How to encourage your shy or emotionally sensitive child:

Share your own experiences. Children are often amazed to hear that their parents were once teased, left out, or lonely. Tell your child how you have handled shyness or other social difficulties--both in childhood and in the present.

  • Ask about your child’s fears. Anxious children often harbor questionable ideas about how others perceive them or how friendships are “supposed to be.” Find out what these beliefs are and encourage your child to challenge them in their daily social encounters.
  • Push a little harder. Parents often desire to protect their children and keep them comfortable. However, taking this approach with shy children may actually help them avoid important social experiences. Gently encourage your child to face his or her social fears.
  • Empathize. Although you should avoid feeding into your child’s anxiety or shyness, take care not to criticize these emotions. You will be better able to encourage social risk taking if you are empathic and supportive. How to foster social success in your hyperactive, impulsive, or disruptive child:
    • Encourage creative, constructive activities. Avoid toys and games that encourage aggressive play, such as wrestling, toy guns or swords, or play fighting. These activities are not always problematic, but children with impulse control issues can carry things too far or have a hard time calming down.
    • Closely monitor high-risk situations. Be aware of situations that have led to aggressive, angry, or unsafe behaviors in the past. Be ready to step in before things get out of hand.
    • Praise preemptively. Frequently praise your child for asking first, for keeping hands to self, or for taking turns before disruptive behavior occurs.
    • Be clear about playtime rules. Create and consider posting a set of rules regarding behaviors like hitting, threatening, and following directions. Review these rules together before playdates or parties, and be sure your child understands the consequences for breaking them. Form a discipline strategy that you can use consistently, both at home and in public.


Children’s social lives are complex and varied and there are many ways to be “successful” socially. Some children feel most comfortable with one or two close friends, whereas others prefer to be part of a large social network. Most children eventually find their niche and are able to achieve their social goals. With the right mixture of empathy and involvement, parents can aid greatly in this process.

Written by Timothy Verduin, Ph.D. of the NYU Child Study Center. For a consultation, please call (212) 263-6622.

About the NYU Child Study Center

The NYU Child Study Center is dedicated to the research, prevention, and treatment of child and adolescent psychiatric disorders. The Center offers evaluation and treatment for children and teenagers with various disorders including anxiety, depression, ADHD, learning or attention difficulties, Autism, eating disorders, and trauma and stress-related symptoms. We offer a limited number of clinical studies at no cost for specific disorders and age groups. To see if your child would be appropriate for one of these studies, please call (212) 263-8916 or visit

The NYU Child Study Center also offers workshops and lectures for parents, educators, and mental health professionals on a variety of mental health and parenting topics. The Family Education Series consists of 13 informative workshops focused on child behavioral and attentional difficulties. To learn more or to request a speaker, please call (212) 263-8861. For further information, guidelines, and practical suggestions on child mental health and parenting issues, please visit the NYU Child Study Center’s website,

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