Check out speech-language pathologist Becky Bowen’s top 5 social skills tips for helping shy kids make friends!
A few months ago, I was attending a training session out-of-state. Typically I have a co-worker or friend along with me for conventions or classes, but that week I was flying solo. The first evening, after grabbing a plate and a drink, I looked around the dining room for a place to sit.
And I froze.
Even as an adult, there are few things as anxiety-inducing as the “cafeteria scenario.”
For kids, especially those who are shy or anxious, navigating social situations with new people can be a challenge. Luckily, getting the hang of a few basics and practicing them often can help put your child at ease now (and into adulthood).
If you have a child who is shy or anxious in social situations, you can help them learn to:
1 || Read the room. In our cafeteria scenario, is it easier to approach a table with a big group of friends, all talking loudly to each other or a table with one or two quiet people?
To set your child up for success, encourage her to seek out others who look like they don’t know a lot of people either. It’s easier to engage with another new person who isn’t familiar with the group than someone already enmeshed in a close crowd of friends.
2 || Gain attention. The first thing you say to someone new should be warm, brief, and polite – just enough to get them to shift their attention to you. Encourage your child to practice using simple “interrupting words” such as: hello, excuse me, oh hey, or good morning. Model these words for your child and practice by pretending and role playing.
3 || Get in there. Once you have someone’s attention, ask for what you want. Show your child how to give the other person a concrete call to action with a yes/no question. This could be as simple as “Can I sit with you?” or “Want to play basketball?” When there’s a clear invitation to interact, most people will say “yes.”
4 || Introduce yourself. Once you’re in there, either sitting at the table, playing the game or working on the group project, let them know who you are. Demonstrate how your child could introduce himself, giving a simple detail or bit of information to show who he is. “Hi, I’m Ben. I’m in Miss Smith’s class.”
5 || Connect and stand out. Once you’ve approached someone, gotten her attention, joined her group and told her who you are, it’s time to find some common ground. Give your child examples of questions she can ask to discover what she has in common with a new friend. This link can lead to further conversation and help her stand out from others in a positive way.
And if you stand out, others will remember you and hopefully invite you back next time you’re standing awkwardly, tray in hand, in the cafeteria.
What are your best secrets for supporting kids who are shy or anxious in social situations? Share them in the comments below!
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Latest posts by Rebecca Bowen (see all)
- THE ULTIMATE SENSORY EXPERIENCE FOR KIDS - March 18, 2016
- STUTTERING: WHEN TO WORRY AND HOW TO HELP - November 8, 2015
- SOCIAL SKILLS: 5 TIPS TO HELP SHY KIDS MAKE FRIENDS - September 30, 2015