If the pandemic taught us anything, it has taught us how much we need one another.
Even the most solitary, independent, introverted people need human contact every now and then to keep them grounded. Children are no different.
In fact, socialisation is essential to enable children to build their confidence, as well as the social skills they will need throughout their lives.
Children, like adults, are also all very different, with some relishing their own company and others getting bored after only a couple of minutes alone.
Whilst many of us are energised by others, some find that being alone, or with just one or two people, is more comforting and perhaps also fuels creativity.
Regardless of whether your child thrives on being around many other children or is contented in their own company, they do still need to feel secure in social situations.
After all, our peers have a huge influence over what we are exposed to and how we interpret the world.
Early childhood friendships help to develop communication skills, build self-esteem and, ultimately, are instrumental in shaping who we become.
Although many children will find their social needs largely met at school, some children are homeschooled and others may find the school environment a difficult place to establish friendships or fully express themselves.
Moreover, some children simply require more socialisation. Creating and encouraging environments for your child’s social life to blossom supports your child’s needs whilst allowing them to have some control over how much and how intensely they wish to interact with other children.
Here are a few ways to improve your child’s social life without being pushy or risking increased anxiety.
A long-established tradition, the playdate has long been used not only to help children socialise but for parents to get to know one another.
Not to mention, give each other a child-free afternoon every once in a while.
Playdates for kids of school age allow children, who may have met at school, to build on their friendship outside of the school environment.
Many children find they are more relaxed or confident in their own homes.
Having their own possessions and toys around them can help to give them more ideas for games and activities to share with their friend.
Particularly for younger children, it might be wise to talk with them about toy sharing, before guests arrive.
For many children, this can be an exciting experience but for others, it can feel a little intrusive.
Having a chat about playing well together and sharing can help to prepare children for allowing another child to play with their toys.
As well as improving your child’s social life, playdates are a great way for you to get to know your child’s friends and their parents too.
Not only does this give you more insight and the opportunity to establish new friendships yourself, but it can also provide support and an understanding ally through the demanding, and at times exhausting, world of parenting young children.
One of the benefits of playdates is that if your child is shy, you can come along too which allows them to break away and engage with the other child at their own pace, knowing that you’re there if they need you.
For children who already have a higher level of confidence, it can be best to leave them so they can explore the social experience independently of you.
After-school activities, whilst often focusing on developing one particular interest, offer children the opportunity to nurture their social skills and make new friends.
Specific hobbies and interest-based after-school activities, such as sports, art classes, performing arts, computing, etc, make it likely that they’ll be grouped with children with shared interests, which can make it easier to establish connections.
Working together on specific activities also allows children the opportunity to form friendships without the pressure that comes from approaching other kids, for instance, on the playground.
There are both pros and cons to after-school clubs at your child’s school versus attending activities outside of the school environment.
If your child is struggling to form friendships at school, attending after-school activities with fewer children can provide a lower-pressure environment for kids to get to know one another better.
For many, the playground can be an intense place of high energy which can be somewhat daunting.
However, after-school activities tend to provide a slightly more structured and usually much calmer environment in which children can build their social skills at a pace they are comfortable with.
Sharing activities with friends also enhances a child’s social life by showing them the value teamwork and support can bring to our endeavours.
School Holiday Camps
Children can easily get bored during the school holidays. Even if you’re organising plenty of day trips and activities at home, they need the stimulation of being with other children.
School holiday camps can be a great opportunity to support your child’s social life whilst introducing them to a range of new activities.
Many Ofsted Registered childcare providers offer fun-packed school holiday camps over the summer holidays, Easter holidays, half term and Christmas camps.
Aside from providing much-needed childcare for working parents, school holiday camps have many positive benefits for children, including:
- Developing skills – especially those non-academic
- Introducing children to new sports, activities and interests
- Exploring talents
- Improving social skills
- Building confidence
- Increasing independence
- Making friends
Why It’s Important To Support A Child’s Social Life
Whether children gain their social confidence through school holiday camps, school, after-school activities or playdates, giving your child the gift of a stimulating social life will enhance their experiences.
Although school holiday camps, after-school activities and playdates can help to support any child’s social development, the National Autistic Society has some additional ideas for supporting autistic children in making friends.
As parents, we will also want to be there for the big moments (and preferably be a fly on the wall in the small moments too).
Essentially though, children who are confident in their social skills, from a young age, go out into the world able to find the support and friendships they need to thrive.