Written by: Joanne Lowe
Think of childhood and most of us will call up images of happy children, playing, laughing and mixing with others without much care. Most children find it easy to get along with others and function in group situations, but this isn’t the case for all. Some children can be very socially withdrawn which can lead to difficulties in developing friendships. If continued, they can become more susceptible to low self-esteem, anxiety and depression. If your child struggles in social situations here are some tips for helping a child who is socially withdrawn.
Know Your Child
Social withdrawal is not always down to a child being a bit shy or not being in a new place. It can be associated with disorders like ADHD and Aspergers. Even conditions such as eating disorders can cause your child to retreat into themselves so make sure you know what is happening in their little lives. Take the time to figure out if their behavior is just a phase, if it is down to any changes at home or emotional upset, or if it is a sign of a condition that may need medical attention.
It’s Good To Talk
Like the television advert for BT highlighted, “It’s good to talk.” Talking to your child is a great way to bond and find out what they are really feeling. An argument with a friend, bullying, worries about stuff going on at home, all of these can cause a child to withdraw. Children worry about things just like adults do and often they don’t understand what is really going on. A child may have seen or heard mummy and daddy having a row and think that something bad is going to happen when actually it is not. Talking to your child will help you understand their fears and ease their worry.
Showing empathy towards your child is one way to help them manage fears surrounding social situations. If a child is unsure about going to a party because there will be lots of people there, don’t tell them to get on with it and stop being silly. Acknowledge their fear and explain that it may be daunting, but after a while they will probably start to enjoy the party and have fun. If a child has a concern over anything don’t dismiss it with adult reasoning. Children are learning and are not born with the knowledge and life experience that we have gained. If you talk about the small things, a child is likely to come back to you and talk about the big things.
Show Them how to Be Sociable
Children learn a lot by just watching their parents. If you are sociable and friendly when you are out and about, then your child will probably follow suit. Certain medical conditions make it difficult for some children to socialise easily so give praise when they make those small steps. What seems small to us will be huge to them.
Don’t Label Your Child
I bet many of us have stopped for a chat in the supermarket only to find our child hiding behind our coat, and then we follow it up with, “Oh they are a bit shy today.” If a child hears this a lot, they may start to believe it. Let them be what they want to be. Sometimes they don’t want to talk, sometimes they are bored and want to go home, sometimes they want to shift attention onto themselves, and sometimes they just don’t like the person you are talking to. If they are uncomfortable for whatever reason it’s a good idea to move out of that situation.
Most children show a desire to do things themselves even as babies. Letting your child take up some of that desire is a great way to develop their self confidence. If they want to walk to the shop and not be pushed in the pram, let them. If they want to help you make the tea let them do something even if it’s a small task. Boosting their confidence will help them to function better in other situations.
A withdrawn child who has even one friend in a new environment will feel better and will eventually gain the trust to interact with more children. Encourage friendships between children by arranging play dates with your friends’ kids. One on one situations like this will be easier for your child to manage.
Ask For Help
If your efforts aren’t working speak to your doctor about your worries and a possible evaluation of their behavior. Sometimes withdrawal can be a sign of an underlying condition such as autism or depression in which case the child will need extra help and support.