“Honey, meet Uncle Sam, Aunt Kimberly, and Cousin Ike.” If your kiddo struggles at all with social skills, you might catch them staring up, wide-eyed at this group of perceived strangers. Thanksgiving is a time for family, so we often enjoy the company of members that we haven’t seen in a while. If someone is unfamiliar, some kids respond with shy expressions and speechlessness. Breaking away the social barriers can allow kiddos to crack out of their cocoons.
The Social Butterfly and the Hermit Crab
Let’s be honest. Some adults even struggle with holding a hearty, whole conversation. It can be as challenging as preparing a Thanksgiving feast. The same goes for our kiddos. Some kids will easily talk the ear off of Cousin Ike and want to know everything about her. Other kids are built differently, which may make them appear reserved around Cousin Ike. Either way, know it’s not something to take personally.
Parents often wonder if engaging in improper social cues is cause for concern. Much like our kiddos, no situation is the same across the board. ADHD, behavioral disorders, anxiety, and other various conditions hold symptoms related to social difficulties. Some kids might simply have a shy personality. If you know your kiddo finds conversations cumbersome, you’re already well aware that it can affect social relationships such as with making friends. Any parent in this situation can take extra steps to better foster social success at home this Thanksgiving.
Put Yourself in Their Shoes
The world of a child can be filled with unrealistic expectations, but hear your kiddo out. Even if you know Aunt Kimberly really well, your child might not. In fact, leaving them alone around distant family might be unsettling for them. Always be patient with their level of comfort around new people or situations. Allowing your kiddo ample time to warm up on their own terms is critical when providing confidence to speak up.
Beyond the Thanksgiving Table
Conversations certainly happen at the Thanksgiving table, but they happen all around us as well. Giving your child opportunities to talk as much as possible all the time will help them along the way and improve self-esteem. Great dialogue happens with practice. Expose your kiddo to situations where they can speak for themselves. Luckily, there are many resources available to parents to work on social skills and practice conversations in comfortable settings.
Pass the Turkey Please, Grandpa
Before Thanksgiving even begins, show your kiddo pictures of all family and friends arriving. Give them a name, a face, and a story to boost familiarity. On the day everyone arrives, introduce each member of the family like you would anyone else. You may be able to help your kiddo out at the table by bringing up their interests or asking them questions. Even if your child isn’t a big talker, providing opportunities to speak throughout the evening will make them feel included and perhaps, even more willing to talk.
If you have a family that enjoys games, board games can invite natural conversations to occur. While a few words from your kiddo is better than none, be mindful to avoid pressuring. Added pressure makes anyone want to speak less, let alone a tiny human. Aim for patience instead. Besides, Thanksgiving is meant to create space with those you love in a low-pressure environment. Bring on the smiles at the next course, please.
Concerned about your kiddo’s social skills? Learn how to set up an appointment at our office for occupational therapy.