By age seven, Jeremy Lin was getting top marks in school but failing socially. Rather than interact with other children, the youngster retreated behind a book. When adults other than relatives talked to him, he answered in monosyllables.
Jeremy's mother, Amy, was upset but not surprised. Young for his class to begin with, Jeremy skipped 2nd standards, increasing the age gap between him and his peers. He spent so much time alone that he got little practice talking to other people of any age.
Amy wanted to help her son but wondered the parent can help his child build up to the hard stuff, such as speaking at a party full of strangers Antony says.
Also helpful, says Pelletier, is teaching your child how to ease herself into a group at play. One approach is to suggest a role for herself, such as I will be the mummy, Pelletier says. If the other kids say they already have a mummy, she can suggest being a big sister or a taxi driver.
To a shy child, the internet may seem a dream come true - a chance to connect socially without the risk of rejection. But it can also delay the acquisition of true social confidence. Carole snow limits her children's after-school computer time to one hour. Then I send them out to play with the neighbours kids. At least this way I know they are getting their quota of group play. PRACTISE, PRACTISE
Before a piano performance, a child may practise his pieces for weeks. But we rarely give children the opportunity to practise for big social challenges, which can loom large as a theatre recital in their minds.
Enter role-playing-what Pelletier calls the social equivalent of piano scales. If your child is anticipating a socilally daunting situation - for instance, a school dance dominated by acidtongued clique leaders - you can role -play how she might deal with barbs from such people. Charlene Giannetti and Margaret Sagarese, authors of the book Cliques, advise using humour whenever possible Example:
Clique leader : Nice Hair
Possible response You should see me on a bad hair day
Children can also benefit from practising ordinary conversation, and the dinner table is a good place to do it. Instead of the tried-and-true clunker, Did anything interesting happen in school today? Kathy Lynn recommends you start with an amusing anecdote: The funniest thing happened at work today. This lets the child segue into his own anecdotes without feeling as though he is on a witness stand.
No topic should be off-limits, adds Lynn, and telling jokes should be encouraged. Being able to tell a joke reflects social competence, Lynn says and there is no better way to learn than by listening go others do it.
Also be sure to practise talking with your child about feelings. Socially competent children can put feelings into words. Ask a younger child how he had feel if his best friend got sick, and ask an older child how she would feel if her best friend started avoiding her, Porath suggests. COMMON GROUND
Sometimes, as in Jeremy Lin's case, children et stuck in a social rut becase they have little in common with their peers. One solution is to link your child up with others who share his interests. Army Lin enrolled Jeremy in a chess club, and science and computer camps. His awkwardness began melting away in the company of his true peers.
Grooming and attire count, too. When Carole snow visited her 10-year old son's school, she discovered that his clothing was not in step with his age. I had been dressing him in cute things that were more appropriate for a younger child, she says. Seeing all the other boys in their hooded sweat shirts really brought this point home to me.
Snow's next stop was a children's clothing store, where she stocked up on baggy pants, sweatshirts and a fleece vest for her son. Now, she says, he looks more like a fifth-standard student. His clothing does not put him at a social disadvantage anymore.w's observations raise an important point; Can a parent influence a child's social standing among peers? I don't think parents have the power to fix peer problems, says Canadian Psychologist Bonnie Haave. What the parent can do is help the whole popularity scene.
Psychologist Shirley Vandersteen cautions against trying to change your child's basic nature in the course of teaching her how to be social. Don't expect your introvert to be the life of the party, she says. It is perfectly fine if she just has two or three close friends.
Ultimately, the best thing a parent can do is to teach by example. Amy Lin showed Jeremy how to behave through her own interactions - at the park, on the phone, in the school compound. Slowly but surely, a more socially confident Jeremy began to emerge.
Jeremy is now thriving in a programme for gifted children. When Amy drops him off, other children run up to greet him- something that never happened before. I used to worry that the social thing would never fall into place for him, she reflects. It is nice to know that a child with a slow start socially can still build up his skills.