Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Shy vs. Outgoing child...both have their social challenges

Yesterday, I shared with you my thoughts on growing up as a shy child and some ways that parents and teachers can help kids such as myself easily transition into social situations.

Today, I want to talk to you about the complete opposite of personalities because I have two of them at home. Both my girls are super outgoing! They do not meet a stranger. They love being around other kids their age and have always been able to adapt well in most social settings. Yes, these are all great traits to have but just like being a shy child, there can be some challenging times socially.

In fact, I have experienced the challenging times quite often with my own social butterflies. It is not that they are disruptive or that they say inappropriate things (well, not always). It is the times that we are at the local park, YMCA or even at a birthday party.

If my oldest doesn't know someone at the park, she will find a child her own age, introduce herself and ask them if they will play with her. It is great for me in the aspect that I don't always have to entertain her while juggling her little sister that is about to fall off the jungle gym. However, there can be times that I see her introduce herself at the playground or ask if she can play with a group of girls at a playdate and they will either say "no!" and run off or say nothing.

It breaks your heart as a parent to see your child that wants so badly to play with others and then you see her feelings get hurt or not get included because she is not part of the usual play group. I often hear, "so and so wouldn't play with me today!" or "why won't they play with me."

So I am slowly trying to learn to parent my sweet social butterflies. I find that when I do see my children get their feelings hurt because a child won't respond to them or include them, I have to to make an effort to point out that it is not anything they did or said. That some children are just not sure how to play with others. Or maybe that particular child didn't want to play what you were playing at the time and that is okay.

During playdates, which can get tricky at times, I try to make sure I have activities that both kids enjoy. My girls love dress-up and art, but not all kids do. So I try to encourage them to pick a puzzle, a game or blocks. That way, the kids are more likely to use their language to work together or make a plan to build with the blocks.

Again, whether a child is shy or outgoing, both have social challenges. Just not the same challenges. The important thing I try to do and want to encourage you to do the same, is embrace those challenges. Take advantage of those tough social situations and use them as teachable moments.

For those parents of extroverted kiddos, help them through those times when they don't feel included as much as they try to be. Teach them resiliance. Encourage them to move on and just let things roll off their back (something that is a life lesson to a lot of us). Also, try to make sure you continue to provide more social activities for them to get involved in, and include some with more structured settings. This way, they can learn when it is appropriate to talk and when it is not?

For those of you with more introverted children, try to provide them with more social opportunities, model how to be more social and most of all, be supportive through social settings that maybe too overwhelming for them. Don't look at their shyness as a burden, look at it as an oppportunity to learn and grow together.

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