How to help your child build SOCIAL COURAGE
Gretchen Rubin, the author of The Four Tendencies and The Happiness Project, suggests that “enthusiasm is a form of social courage.”
Kids need social courage when they first enter school or a new class or join a club where they don’t know anyone.
Your child will need social courage when they are asked to stand up and answer questions, give a talk in front of their peers, or are invited to a birthday party. If they have any social anxiety, then it’s social courage that your children will need to call upon to deal effectively with that event or situation.
Enthusiasm means to be inspired and fired up with an inner spirit. Some kids are naturally enthusiastic. Others learn it from a bubbly, life-loving parent or sibling. And some have to fake it a bit to overcome their own social anxiety and fears.
“Courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen.” ~ Brene Brown
To help your child have more social courage:
SOCIALISE YOUR CHILD AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE FROM AN EARLY AGE!
- Yes! Rather like socialising a puppy, you need to get your kids used to other people!
- Having great role models for socialising is huge – kids need to learn the HOW of socialising. If that’s not you, who’s the ‘people person’ in your world who can help them be more friendly and outgoing?
SOCIALLY SINK OR SWIM? PLOP KIDS IN ACTIVITIES WHERE THEY HAVE TO SOCIALISE…
…(preferably without a long lead-up time to fret and worry about it)!
- Examples: helping out at a charity stall, delivering leaflets, visiting an old people’s home, or having a part-time job where they interact with others and don’t have time to think or worry about doing anything other than interacting. This will give them the experience that they CAN get along with others and help ‘grease the wheels’ of their social engine!
- Teach them how to be upbeat and friendly, meet people’s eyes, be polite, show interest, and ask and answer questions.
- Try not to traumatize them! Some situations (like meeting with old people) may be way less stressful than mixing with peers of their own age or older where they have more ‘invested’ in being approved of (and not getting rejected or bullied).
SHOW YOUR KIDS THE PHYSIOLOGY OF ENTHUSIASM
- How you stand, hold your body, and move, the expression on your face, and how you breathe affect how you feel. Your child can use his or her physiology to create a state of confidence and the feeling of enthusiasm and enjoyment in being around other people. This puts them in the creative driving seat of their lives, rather than feeling a victim to their inner feelings and biochemistry.
(See: The Powersuit Exercise )
HELP KIDS DEVELOP A GOOD SPEAKING VOICE
- Being able to speak well, enunciate clearly and with energy and character, and put inflection and friendliness in the voice are valuable skills for anyone. They’re skills that can help kids, particularly shy ones, to ‘get through’ social situations much easier than if they are mumbling, umming and awing, speaking quietly, droning, or being unexpressive.
- Work with plosive sounds like P, T, K and B, D, G to really get the lips working, powerfully firing off the words. An old book on speech therapy recommended the base sentence: “Pa, may we all go too? ” But you use the plosives to start each word instead, so it becomes, “Pa, pay pee pall po poo?” and “Ta, tay tee tall to too?” etc. And you get your child to repeat the sentence, but each time emphasise a different word. E.g. “KA, kay kee kall ko koo? Ka, KAY kee kall ko koo? Ka, kay KEE kall ko koo? Ka, kay kee KALL ko koo? Ka kay kee kall KO koo? Ka kay kee kall ko KOO?” This helps them emphasise and differentiate words to put more interest and meaning in their sentences. You want a kind of musicality of voice when speaking, rather than the dreaded monotone (…hello teenager!).
- Another vocal exercise: Get your child to read a page of a book or children’s magazine aloud in a normal voice. Then, do it again, super slowly with exaggerated overemphasis of each word, really sounding it out fully with the mouth and lips. Finally to develop more vocal richness and resonance, have them read with teeth together, holding the sound of each syllable for a couple of seconds, SOOOOOO THAAAAATT EEEEEEAAACH WOOOORRRRD IIIIISSSS SSSSTREEEEETTCHED OOOOUUUT in a hum-like sound in the throat. 2-10 minutes of this will really help.
- Let them model (copy/emulate) the communication styles of their favourite successful TV or YouTube stars (the upbeat expressive ones!). Maybe film them to help them progress and experiment with their communication style. Help them differentiate between a dull way of talking and the warmer more engaging way that the best YouTubers and TV stars use.
FOSTER THE IDEA OF SERVICE & HELPING OTHERS
- An outer focus prevents too much navel-gazing and introspective self-consciousness. If you can guide your kids to focus on helping those around them, making efforts to smile, to be kind, to be helpful, to be interested in others and their welfare – that is a HUGE component in having good social skills and the courage to interact bravely with others.