Are you making these 6 mistakes when socializing your child with other kids and adults? Avoid these pitfalls during play dates and outings.
Even when my eldest was an infant, I was bent on exposing him to other kids, especially since he wasn’t able to on a daily basis. He also didn’t have siblings at home to play with yet. And I wanted him to develop social skills from the start and learn how to engage with his peers.
This continued in his toddler years where I sought play dates at the park and mommy groups. As much as I wanted him to develop a strong attachment to his parents, I still understood the importance of social behavior with other kids.
That said, I also learned that socializing little kids doesn’t have to be complicated, nor should it be a source of headache for anyone.
6 mistakes to avoid when socializing your child
Most of these play dates and social interactions turned out well. But from time to time, I began to pick up a few common mistakes that fellow parents and I were making during these gatherings.
We all want our kids to socialize with their peers, especially since this is a skill they’ll need to thrive in society. But sometimes, we can place unrealistic expectations on them. See if you’re guilty of these following mistakes with your child when teaching social skills with other kids.
1. Hanging out only in big groups
Big groups aren’t always ideal for socializing, especially when too many kids feel overstimulating to some.
If you suspect that your child gets overwhelmed with too many people he’s not familiar with, stick to smaller groups. In fact, aim for one-on-one play dates, which still allows him to engage with others, but on a much smaller scale.
If you’re in a mommy group, invite one mom for a get together, perhaps a mom whose child has a similar temperament as your own child’s.
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2. Forgetting that your child might be too young
We forget that socializing looks different for kids than it does for adults, especially young toddlers and babies. At two- or three-years-old, they can enjoy parallel play with other kids. But they don’t interact with one another or pick up social cues until four-years-old. Many don’t show empathy all that much yet.
Don’t expect your young child to play with toys, laugh, or share with a play mate all the time. These may be an unfair expectation during this stage. Instead, expect him to mostly play on his own or, at best, mirror and play side-by-side another child.
3. Expecting your child to be extroverted
We tend to express a bias towards our more extroverted peers, from early childhood into adulthood. However, up to one-third to one-half of people are introverted and would much rather work alone or in smaller groups. They prefer to listen and observe and could take a longer time to warm up to strangers.
Don’t feel like your child isn’t social enough when he isn’t as extroverted as another child in a play group. He’ll develop his own way of playing and engaging with his peers that still respects his shyness and temperament.
4. Exposing your child with too much
We forget that daily life can include new experiences for kids. For those who don’t enjoy over-stimulation, too much exposure too quickly can upset them.
Instead, introduce new situations and places gradually. While you shouldn’t shield your child from difficult emotions, consider her temperament as well. Be patient when she doesn’t take to what other kids usually like. And stick to low-key experiences until she grows accustomed to them.
5. Pushing kids when they’re not interested
Want to get your child interested in an activity or event? Encourage him, but don’t push. He may not feel comfortable if he senses your anxiety or feels pressured to socialize with others. It’s really okay if he’s not interested in what the other kids in the play group are doing.
And honor his decision when he says “no” to an activity. Don’t force him to go down the slide with the other kids, especially after he has said he doesn’t want to. By honoring his word, you let him know that others should listen to his boundaries when he says “no” or “stop.”
6. Expressing disappointment
It’s normal to feel disappointed if your expectations aren’t met and your child throws tantrums in a social setting. Remember though that this isn’t your child’s fault and is almost always normal.
Rather than expressing disappointment, praise his efforts, however small they may seem to you. She’ll realize that you’re on her side, that what she did was wonderful, and that progress was made. She has her whole childhood to develop friendships—one play date isn’t a sign that she’ll never make friends.
Social development looks different for all kids, and what may worry you now will more than likely turn out all right in the end. By avoiding these mistakes, you can help your little one better thrive in social settings at a comfortable pace that’s just right for him.
Hang out in smaller groups if you suspect he gets overwhelmed with crowds. Keep your outings age-appropriate, especially for younger children. Remember that not all kids are extroverted, and that’s okay. Others might also feel overstimulated if exposed to too many new environments and people.
Don’t push your child if he’s not interested, and avoid showing disappointment if he doesn’t meet your expectations.
Meeting social milestones is crucial for all kids, but it doesn’t take much to expose your child to others, either. Sometimes, a simple one-on-one play date can be all it takes.
Get more tips:
- Why Kids Shouldn’t Be Forced to Share
- How to Handle Children’s Social Conflicts
- What to Do if Your Child Shows Off to Others
- How to Stop Your Child from Interrupting and What to Do Instead
- How to Teach Toddlers to Share
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