As school-age children develop and begin to create their individual identities outside of the home, they still need the help, support, and guidance of their parents so that they can succeed in socialization with other children. For example, they may need reminders about hygiene, chores, and homework, even through their bodies are developing quickly and they externally seem more mature than they are internally. Developing children need support at home not only with proper nutrition and being strict with television and computer time, but also in how they form their relationships. Overcoming social issues are just as important to a child’s development as overcoming academic and health issues. Parents can be key in assisting their children by understanding the various aspects of children’s socialization and how they can get involved.
The first step is comprehending what social milestones are and noticing them in their children. For example, the transition from solo play and occasional parental interaction to group play is a major step in social development. It could be helpful if a parent intervenes by introducing a playmate for their child in a monitored environment with the other child’s parent present. As all parties become more comfortable after several visits, the children can have more time to interact with each other without parent intervention, but still supervision. This can also be done with small groups where the parents are first engaged and then allow the children to have more space but still in a supervising role. Additionally, as the child ages, the child should have more freedom to go to another child’s home without their parent staying in the home but still be accessible in the event the child needs to be picked up. When they’re a bit older, the child can also go to their friend’s home on their own with less planning done by their parents.
While it is vital to allow children freedom when understanding the best social interactions, it is just as important to help them to know what is appropriate and what is inappropriate. Inappropriate behavior can come in both language and action. Inappropriate language can come in profanities and meanness and needs to be corrected firmly and immediately but not angrily so that the child doesn’t feel put-down by their parent. Additionally, it can be quite useful to meet with the child’s teacher to discuss both how the child has been socialized at home and school and their social needs both in and out of the classroom. While children are in school settings, they often deeply desire “fitting in” with their peers and can use structured classroom experiences to help them feel included. It is especially necessary to speak to a child’s teacher if the child has a learning disability such as ADHD, because they may struggle with tuning into social cues, processing information, and self-expression.
When dealing with a developing child, a parent needs to be patient but involved in a way that supports them while also allowing them the space to grow and learn at their own pace. They can communicate with their children about their expectations and rules that can be enforced while also modeling behavior they want their children to follow. Furthermore, a parent needs to understand that children can experience social growth spurts as well as plateaus and regressions. With triumphs also come failures and parents shouldn’t be embarrassed or discouraged about their child’s rate of development. It is crucial for parents to maintain warmth and optimism while giving their child structure and fun to develop into physically, emotionally, mentally, and socially healthy adults in the future.