This article is not about homeschooling; however, this is always the first question I get asked since I’ve decided to do it, and was honestly my first big concern: How will my daughter socialize?
Making friends was never easy for her, keeping them was even harder. One on one she seemed to play great, but you throw another kid or two or twenty (daycare/preschool) in the mix and forget about it.
Why is socialization important?
No one can deny that people have to be able to communicate, work, and live with each other. Unless you go off grid you will have to come in contact with others. But besides the necessity of it, there are other perks for children to be able to socialize.
For younger children, being in a daycare/preschool/play group can help teach them patience, empathy, and help them with their fine motor skills. Young children inspire one another so if your child is late to the party on walking, they may do it sooner if they are around other kids who walk. Same with talking. Same with bad habits too, so be warned.
These early interactions start to create soft skills that your child will need for the rest of their lives.
The second big one, especially for children who are a little older, is self-esteem. Having friends and others that are like minded, helps boost your self-esteem. Being lonely, feeling alienated, and feeling isolated can destroy it.
Currently, I am in several ADHD Groups and I can’t tell you how many times I see moms saying things like “my son didn’t have anyone show up to his Birthday party” or “my daughter never gets invited anywhere”. It breaks my heart. Those kids know that they are being shunned and that can be devastating to their self esteem.
Is it as important as it’s made to sound?
I think yes and no. Like I stated above, older children may suffer more without it, but the skills start in the toddler years. However, do I think you should throw your kid in every social opportunity that pops up because it’s crucial that they interact with kids everyday? No.
The first classroom is your home. You are teaching your child from day one whether you are meaning to or not. Back in the day, that was the only education. Parents, family members, or tutors (for the wealthy) taught all the children together.
TIMELINE OF EDUCATION SYSTEM IN AMERICA– pretty interesting but may make you leery of the education system if you’re not already, js.
The government stepped in and slowly enacted Compulsory Education Laws, state by state, starting in Massachusetts in 1852 and ending with Mississippi in 1917. Why does this matter? It’s just to show that children weren’t shut ins prior to being forced into public schools (or private even). But it also shows that they weren’t in classrooms full of other students either (and a lot were working horrid hours and conditions doing child labor but that’s a different post).
It has been proven that you need socialization to have a healthy lifestyle. Even if you are anti-social, you interact with people in one form or another and we as a species need that. What I think is overblown is HOW much young children need.
Under 5, the emphasis of social interactions should be on the family. This is the where the child should feel safest. This is where their trust should build a foundation, in their homes. I don’t just mean parents either: grandparents, cousins, siblings, etc. Play groups, community events, and family events are great ways to get doses of interactions for them as well. If they have to go to daycare because you work (been there) then that’s fine. Don’t do it JUST for the socialization aspect is all I’m saying.
How can I help my struggling child?
For whatever reason some kids (and adults) are just born smooth, confident, and/or friendly. Some kids are not. It’s something they have to work on. The set-up of a large classroom may be an overwhelming place for them to try and make friends.
If you find your child isn’t getting the interactions they need with other kids here a few things to try:
Give them a chance to socialize in smaller groups: that’s easier for younger children (like mentioned above); however, there are options for all ages. The Scouts, art groups, summer programs (look for ones with smaller class sizes), STEM clubs, and other similar programs are a good way to socialize with children in a smaller setting with a similar interest. This helps with having an ice breaker and may have students from other schools they haven’t had a chance to interact with during the school year.
Play Groups/Play Dates: I was kind of anti play dates when I first had my daughter but as more and more of my friends had kids I was okay with it (socialize much?). It was a good way for me to get some adult time while my kids got to play with someone new.
Family exposure: I think it’s easy to overlook just how important it is to visit family when you have children. They need that interaction just as much as your grandparents, parents, and other family members do. With technology being what it is, it may be easy to write off actually visiting each other but make a point to do so.
Pen Pals: Because of the above mentioned Facebook post problem I kept seeing I decided to start a Facebook group to meet Pen Pals (for kids with ADD, ADHD, ASD, and any other disorder that may hinder their social skills). This could be great outlet for your child to make a friend at their own pace!
Buddy Bench: in case there are any teachers or daycare professionals reading this I just heard about the Buddy Bench (it’s not new but it’s new to me). It’s where there is a designated spot (like a bench) that if a child goes to recess or break time and doesn’t have a friend to play with, they go to the Buddy Bench. That helps other kids who also don’t have a friend to play with find each other. Brilliant. Obviously this would not work with older kids the same way but maybe a different variation of the same idea could be implemented.