Five ways you can encourage your child to be more social

Worried that your child doesn’t play with other children enough – or doesn’t want to? Here are five ways you can encourage them to be more social.

Now that social media has us all under its hypnotic spell, we can sometimes forget the importance of making real-life connections.

Encouraging children to engage in real-life interactions with their peers can prove extremely challenging. These days, many young people suffer from acute social anxiety, and the thought of a big event or  group activity can be daunting, even to the most confident of kids. 

We’ve put together some ideas to help you support your child as they step away from their smartphones and video games, and head into the world of face-to-face friend-making. 

1) Suggest a summer school

Encouraging your child to go on a trip with young people of similar ages will allow them to meet new friends from different backgrounds and learn about the world.

Attending a summer school, for example, will not only be educational and a great way to prepare for higher education, but it will also give them a chance to flex their social muscles and form bonds with people from different countries, religions or family backgrounds from their own; an invaluable life lesson and loads of fun too. 

2) Help them discover their inner show-off

One of the top ways to boost a child’s confidence is through drama and acting. It can be terrifying to brave the stage, with the risk of embarrassment pretty high, but these kinds of experiences can actually be one of the quickest ways to break the ice and build bonds for life.

Even if your child doesn’t fancy a starring role or a solo dance number, they can stay backstage to help with tasks like make-up, costume, scenery and stage-management. All will not only build their teamwork skills, but it will also give them a real sense of accomplishment. 

3) Get them into sports

If learning lines is not their thing, your child might be better suited to the high-fiving unity offered by team sports. From netball to martial arts, swimming to basketball, there are many different levels of team interaction that your kid can choose from. 

Whatever they opt for, they will benefit from the social perks of joining a group that practices together each week, even if they ultimately compete alone.

Winning and losing together both bring their own life lessons and should allow your child to express their triumph and despair in a way that helps them learn and grow. 

4) Practice at home

Family time is so important, no matter if you’ve got a raucous brood of cackling cousins and over-sharing aunties or it’s just you and your child.

Time spent at home can slip pretty easily into an uninspiring routine of dinner, television and bed, but allowing your child to express themselves with you is brilliant practice for the intimidating outside world. 

Swap smartphones at the table for a dinnertime chat, and consider pen-and-paper gamesthat help your child to articulate concepts and emotions. Communicating as a family will equip your offspring with the skills they need to form friendships and present themselves in more challenging social moments. 

5) Help them use social media differently

Platforms like SnapChat, Instagram and Twitter can get a bad reputation for spreading negativity by inspiring feelings of inferiority and competition.

As a parent, these things are worth keeping in mind of course, but you may actually change your child’s life if you make the effort to alter their perspective on social media. It is important that they are aware that what they see on the screen is not always the reality.

Go through their feed with them and unfollow anyone who sparks negative emotions. This includes anyone whose apparently perfect life inspires envy, an account that brings out their own judgemental streak or an ‘influencer’ promoting unrealistic ideals. Suggest making their social media a place where they share their achievements, uplifting, honest ideas and experiences.

Encourage them to have positive interactions with other users they know in real life. This could probably help us all to remember why we love the internet in the first place: it connects us.

Photo by Ben White