Parents often think of socialization as beginning at the time of preschool or elementary school; however, it begins long before these stages. You may also hear comments that children of a stay-at-home parent or homeschooled children are not as well socialized as their daycare/preschool counterparts. FALSE. We know that socialization begins at birth in your family unit. From the moment your child enters the world, you are socializing them by modeling and emulating how to interact with others.
While playdates, mommy groups, and memberships are great – socialization is as simple as family dinners, communication with neighbors, visiting family members, and playing at the park. Our children learn from every single interaction with others around them in all settings.
What skills are our children learning during these day-to-day interactions?
- How to greet others
- How to engage with same age peers and adults in social settings
- Behavioral expectations in various settings
- How to communicate in different settings: i.e. doctors office, school, library, bank, park, etc.
- How to cope with feelings/frustrations
How to prepare your kids ahead of time: Prep work is key for surviving socialization, whether it be a new place or somewhere you go frequently, with kids. Prior to hopping out of the car and running into the dentist appointment, take a moment to go over what to expect, any behavioral requirements in that setting (i.e. using our walking feet, inside voices, etc.), and time. For example: prior to entering our dentist appointment last week, I reminded my children that there will be other people getting their check-ups too, so we would use our inside voices when talking to each other and the dentist, we could read books in the waiting room, and reminded them that if they were able to comply, our dentist would give them a prize from the treasure chest. The boys repeated the expectations back to me, and we set the groundwork for the visit.
Recap the activity afterwards: Praise your child/children who did well. Provide specifics such as “I love how you said thank you to the grocery store clerk.” Recap the visit once you are back in the car or at home. We recap big moments and take-aways from the day with daddy when he gets home from work. For example: I may say “Today we took a walk around the neighborhood, and James did a great job saying hi to others.”
Do not discount the lessons you are teaching your child all day every day even when not at a planned social activity. You are shaping and molding them in every interaction and moment.
What are your favorite ways to socialize your baby and child?