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How to improve introverted children's social skills

Opinion
 

Shy little girl hiding by her mother. [iStockPhoto]

Introversion is a natural personality trait characterised by a preference for solitary activities and a tendency to avoid social gatherings. Introversion may not be a problem as a trait. However, a child may struggle with socialising. This can impact their self-esteem and relationship with others as they grow.  

As parents and teachers, there are several ways to support a child in developing their social skills and feeling more comfortable in crowds. The most important step is understanding and accepting their temperament. They should comprehend that there is power in being quiet in a noisy world. Introverted children often need time alone to recharge after social interactions to restore their energy levels.

Instead of pushing your child into large social gatherings, encourage them to take small steps outside their comfort zone. They should not be pressured for immediate results. Allow them to interact at their own pace with people of their choice. Start with activities that involve fewer people, such as inviting a friend over for a play date or joining a small group activity that aligns with their interests.

Parents and teachers need to create time to engage them about their emotions and how to handle other people's feelings as well. Encourage them to express their feelings and validate their emotions. This helps them develop an understanding of how emotions impact social interactions.

Children are very observant, and they learn by example. Therefore, caregivers need to demonstrate and model healthy social behaviours in interactions with others. Show them how to listen actively, engage in conversations and respect others' boundaries. Parent’s actions can serve as a model for how they can navigate social interactions themselves. 

Positive reinforcement

Opportunities to socialise in environments where they feel comfortable and safe should also be created. This could be through clubs, sports teams, or hobby groups that align with their interests. We need to cheer them to pursue activities that they enjoy, as this can make socialising more enjoyable and meaningful for them.

As caregivers, we should celebrate our children's efforts to socialise, no matter how small. Positive reinforcement can boost their confidence and encourage them to continue stepping out of their comfort zone. Let them know that it is okay to feel nervous and that you are proud of them for trying. They may encounter rejection in the process, but reassure them it is normal and they will get through it.

If a child's introversion significantly impacts their daily life, or causes distress, consider seeking the help of a mental health professional. They provide strategies and support tailored to each child's needs. A therapist can also help you understand your child better and provide guidance on how to best support them.

Every child is a masterpiece; hence, it is important to respect their personality while gently encouraging them to grow and develop social skills at their own pace. The process requires patience, understanding and support, parents and teachers can help an introverted child confidently navigate the social world.

Ms Ombisi is the Principal for Junior School at Crawford International School

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