Poor social skills in young children can often be played off by parents as “going through a phase”, but when it doesn’t improve over time or affects the child’s daily life, what can you do to help them? If your child is awkward around family, there are steps you can take to improve this situation.
Understanding the root cause of your child’s behavior is the biggest step you can take towards helping them grow to become well-rounded, emotionally balanced adults.
You would expect a child to be more sociable around family members and people that the child already knows, but if they seem standoffish with relatives you might be concerned.
Take into account a few possible reasons why your child might not be as excited about family get-togethers as you are.
Some children are simply the shy type. They don’t take to new people very quickly and the child might not know if they can trust this person yet.
A way you can determine if it is shyness is by knowing how well your child knows your relatives.
Do they see each other often, perhaps even in an environment that is common for the child, for example in their own home where the child feels most at ease?
Letting the child get to know a family member better by interacting with them in their most secure space gives them a chance to form a bond and can ease the child’s shyness around the individual.
A large family reunion that is loud and boisterous may not be the best place for the child to get to know someone.
Shyness is a personality trait, and sometimes a choice that children consciously make. They don’t want to open up to someone, as opposed to not being able to as happens when they are socially awkward.
There is nothing wrong with shy children, they are just a little more cautious and contemplative than you expect them to be.
If the initial shyness is not the case, it is possible that the child lacks the social skills to communicate effectively with family members. If the child is socially awkward, this will not only be clear when interacting with family members but also in other aspects of their social interactions.
Do they act the same way when other children their own age are around? Children tend to form trusting bonds with kids their own age much faster than with adults. If your child is the same amount apprehensive at the park around other children or at school, it could be that their social skills have yet to develop.
The best way to help your child to develop those social behaviors is modeling. Children will, more often than not, mimic the actions they witness their parents doing.
Does your child see you interacting with others and communicating with friends and family? It is important for a child to see positive relationships in order to learn to form relationships of their own.
As much as they need social skills in their life, they don’t need to be social butterflies. Make sure not to pressure your child to be extroverted just because you think they are lacking that skill.
By putting too much emphasis on it, you could potentially harm the child’s self-esteem and cause them to want to socialize even less. Teaching empathy, kindness, and curiosity through positive social modeling is the best way to help your child come out of their shell.
The concept of childhood anxiety eludes most adults. As adults, we often don’t associate anxiety with children, especially young children.
It is difficult for us to understand what a young child could have to be anxious about. For this reason, as a society, we tend to take adult anxiety much more seriously than childhood anxiety.
Children are constantly developing, growing physically, mentally, and emotionally every day. This is why every little detail can seem to have a large impact on them. What they see, hear, and feel can sometimes seem like an onslaught of inconsistent stimuli that they are having to interpret around the clock.
This can be very intimidating for some children, especially those who are naturally introspective.
Childhood anxiety disorders can come in many forms. There is separation anxiety, a state that occurs when they are fearful of being away from their parents, which happens often in children who have not been encouraged to develop independence.
Social anxiety occurs when someone is scared of being in places where they will have to be around people.
Along with generalized anxiety (constantly worrying about bad things happening), panic disorder (physically debilitating fears), and phobias (fear of specific things or situations), anxiety can be socially binding on a child, no matter the severity.
If unaddressed, these anxieties can lead to further disorders as they grow up. If you think your child might have an anxiety problem, it is important to speak to their primary care provider to find out what options will work for you and your child.
Your Expectations VS. Your Child’s Expectations
It may seem weird to you the way your child acts around people, and it is too often the case that parents project their expectations on their children, but if your child is an introvert, they may be more comfortable not socializing as much.
Try not to expect your child to be as socially competent as you are, after all, you have had a lot more practice.
Experience in social environments increases the child’s ability to learn how to behave in those situations and gives them more confidence to socialize. If your child’s expectation of being “sociable” is saying hello to someone, let that be an achievement for them while they are still developing those skills.
It is common to hear a parent tell someone that their child is shy, especially in the moment of the child refusing to be social. It can be disadvantageous to label them as “shy” or “awkward”, especially in front of the child.
It can, in some instances, damage their self-esteem if they see these words to have a negative connotation.
Another problem with labeling the child as shy is that it will give the child permission to label themselves as such. This could lead to them giving themselves permission to never adapt out of the behavior, sabotaging any future progress they might make.
Your child being awkward around family needs all the support they can get.
A child’s reasoning behind their behavior isn’t always going to make sense. No matter what the excuse is, don’t try to invalidate their fears or feelings.
For a child to feel anxious, worried, or even fearful, there has to be some underlying reasoning for them. It might sound like the silliest, nonsensical reason you’ve ever heard, but in your child’s mind, it makes perfect sense.
One of the most rewarding things we can do for our children is giving them acceptance. Your child is unique in every way you can think of.
They don’t look like other kids, they don’t talk like other kids, and they certainly won’t act the same as other kids. Yes, they might do and say some things that seem strange to you and others, but this is who your child is, so accept them as they are.
One of the best ways to give your child acceptance is to avoid comparing them to other kids. Accepting them for who they are is the basis for setting expectations for behavior in the future and helping them develop their own individual personality.
Chances are, if you are overly worried or overthinking your child’s social awkwardness, your child probably is too.
Your experiences with social situations and your expectations of how they should behave, whether at a family gathering or elsewhere, are unique to you and we too often expect our children to think and act as we do.
Your child has their own experiences and expectations. Help your child to develop those social skills and confidence in themselves by giving them the opportunity to develop new adventures and encounters.
The position you are in as a parent to influence your child’s behavior and social development is so much bigger than you can imagine. You can lead your child to see uncomfortable situations as an opportunity for growth but keep always in mind that their personality is their own masterpiece to develop.
Final thoughts – Child Is Awkward Around Family
Awkwardness can be experienced by anyone at any time. The feeling of not having a connection at that moment can be dreadful but understanding that it is a normal feeling is important.
If a child is awkward around family, understanding the root cause of that awkwardness is important. it takes different solutions to solve that awkwardness whether it is due to shyness, anxiety, or actual social awkwardness.
Like it was mentioned above, do not try to make your child more extroverted to the point where they hate being in social situations. Work towards helping them be more comfortable socially by modeling how you interact with others.