It’s the first day of school. You pull into the parking lot, park your car, unbuckle your preschooler, and slowly walk toward the school. You hear your child breathing deeply and look down to make sure he’s okay. You catch sight of his eyes, now brimming with tears, and begin to worry.
Your child is shy. How is he going to survive his first few days of school?
If you have a child that struggles with shyness or social phobia, you are not alone. According to a recent study conducted in the United States, nearly 40 percent of children have reported shyness. Fortunately, you can combat shyness and help your child feel comfortable in a group setting long before preschool starts.
1. Explore Extracurricular Activities
Dance? Check. Basketball? Check. Theater? Check. There are dozens of extracurricular activities you can involve your children in throughout the year. If you want to prepare your children for preschool interactions, sign up for extracurricular activities a year before school starts. Some popular and unique extracurricular activities include the following:
- Music groups
- Group sports (tennis, T-ball, soccer, basketball)
- Gymnastics and cheerleading
- Chess clubs
- Baking and/or cooking
Extracurricular activities will help your children learn to share, communicate, work in a team, and understand body language. Activities stimulate your child’s brain and help him feel more comfortable in a social situation. Visit your local recreational center to see which activities are available near you.
2. Maintain Balance
Your child needs balance. If your son starts playing basketball and forms a mild obsession, incorporate different activities into his schedule to ensure he is a well-rounded individual. Often, similar personality types get involved in similar activities. Open your child’s mind to different personality types with an array of activities.
If your son likes basketball, sign him up for a summer theater camp to learn more about performance arts. If your daughter loves chess, sign her up for an 8-week dance course so she can dip her toes into a variety of fun activities. Help your child learn about and try different activities to maintain a healthy and balanced schedule.
3. Encourage and Support Dreams
On the other hand, it’s important to let your child develop skills that will help him or her get better at one hobby or activity. If your son loves basketball and dreams of playing in high school, college, or the NBA, support him. Help him integrate himself in the basketball culture so he can make long-lasting friendships and connections.
4. Create a Play Group
If you don’t have the time or money for extracurricular activities, create activities close to home. A neighborhood play group is the perfect way to help your children socialize with neighbors. Call other parents in the neighborhood to decide on a day (most play groups meet twice a week) and then rotate between houses.
Incorporate fun learning activities into your play groups so your children and their friends can get ready for preschool and feel confident with the ABCs and 123s.
5. Socialize Together
“Careful the things you say, children will listen. Careful the things you do, children will see and learn. Children will look to you for which way to turn, to learn what to be.” – Stephen Sondheim, Into the Woods
Monkey see, monkey do. Your children will mimic your behavior. If you want your children to socialize and feel comfortable in a group setting, you need to socialize yourself. Invite friends over for weekly get-togethers so your children can see you conversing and laughing with friends of your own.
If you want to kill two birds with one stone, have your friends bring their children so your family can form lasting relationships with other families. If your child experiences stranger danger, constant contact with friendly adults and children will make your child more comfortable in the company of others.
Another terrific way to socialize with your child is to spend time together. Eat together. Laugh together. Go on walks together. Sing and dance together. Talk together.
You need to form a relationship with your children. Become friends. Listen. Do all you can to help your child feel comfortable opening up and trying new things.
6. Don’t Boast On Your Child’s Behalf
Although you may be tempted to boast about your child, don’t. No parent or child likes to hear about the endless success of another. Jealousy and pride are part of human nature. Don’t alienate your child by constantly boasting. Instead, help your child develop humility so they can fit in in a group setting.
Take the time to get to know your child and understand his needs. Don’t feel overwhelmed if it takes a while for your child to warm up to others. Look for ways to get involved so your child can feel comfortable when the school year starts.