DS 5 years old and very anxious in social situations(11 Posts)
Just come home from another party where my DS has refused to join in. I don't really know how to help him. I've tried being encouraging and taking him over to join in but that doesn't work and then I've tried being harsh and telling him he won't be invited to parties if he doesn't look like he's enjoying himself. I find it all so stressful. Left a party early today because he wouldn't even sit at the table to eat the food. He was crying and screaming but I just felt so upset by the whole thing I just couldn't wait to leave. I told him I wouldn't be accepting anymore party invites but now I feel awful and like such a crap parent. I know how he feels because I also hate social situations where I don't know many people but I also know how I missed out on so much stuff as a child because i was shy and i just don't want him to end up like me.
Why does he have to join in?
My 5 year old often doesn't. He is shy in large crowds or new environments. Usually he is happier to sit with Dh or I the first hour of party then gradually mingles with those he's closest too or once it's calmed down a bit.
Neither dh or I are huge party animals so I wouldn't expect a child to have to like loud noise venues and crowds. He's 5. I wouldn't ever force him to do anything
Why does it stress you out? Surely he's the one missing out on the games and that's his choice. Just chill out about it and let him decide to join or not at his own pace
I guess it doesn't really matter but I worry that he's setting himself apart from his peer group and may end up being the outsider if he doesn't make a little effort. I get that he doesn't like disco parties as he feels self conscious and, to be fair, both my DH are no party animals either so he has probably inherited more than a little of our behaviour, but he doesn't like party games either and there's nothing worse than seeing all the other kids having a great time while he looks as if I've suggested he should amputate his leg! At the moment the other kids are having too much of a good time to notice but I don't think it will be long before the invitations stop as the kids get older and more selective with party invites.
Is there anything you can do?
Eg at a recent party DD wouldn't eat at the main table as there was lots of noise. She sat with me.
Take a familiar soft toy or similar
Don't insist he joins in games. See if he will join in some with you or paired with another child.
Allow him to come to you for a cuddle if he wants to and just watch.
Smile! If he thinks you are anxious it will rub off.
We have another party coming up soon so I will give it another go, maybe my husband can take him and see if that helps.
I sympathise, but I do think you're expecting your anxious, very young child to cope cheerfully in situations that would make his parents uncomfortable, from what you say about you and your DH. Also, in the nicest possible way, you sound as if you are trying to 'correct' your own shy childhood retrospectively by trying to make your five year old be a social being in a way he's clearly very uncomfortable with.
My mother, who has barely a friend in the world and has no idea how to function socially other than by trying to befriend very needy or troubled people (because they 'need' her), was always trying to thrust her four children into social situations whether we wanted to or not (including inviting children we disliked intensely to play, and accepting party invitations no one wanted to accept) because she had a horror that we would become pariahs and people would dislike or leave us out if we didn't seem endlessly grateful for any social overture. Which is not, IMO, how things work. And it made us desperately self-conscious, because there she was, worrying away on the sidelines, trying to make us live out her own fantasies of sociability.
I know you are not my mother (lucky you! ), but try to keep your own feelings and memories out of the equation. What would have helped you to find parties easier when you were five? Or would you rather have declined invitations and done something else?
Also, I think that the best possible thing you can do to help him grow in social confidence is to model it yourself...?
You need to think of ways to boost your child's self-confidence.
I wasn't particularly anti-social at his age it was only when I hit puberty that I became incredibly self conscious and felt totally inadequate in social situations (consequently spent a lot of my time as as a young adult using alcohol to hide my real self). Confidence does come with age and experience and although I'm still not that comfortable when I socialise with the other mums I can hide it quite well. I don't force my kids to do anything but my DS wants to go these parties (even if it is just to get the party bag at the end) but always tells me his tummy feels funny (nervous?) on the way which makes me wonder if I should just decline the invites and wait until he's older in the hope that he'll come out of his shell and be less reliant on me.
I would say as long as he's keen to go then take him. Try to make it as gentle, fun and positive an experience as possible, let him do his own thing (as long as he's not upsetting anyone else) and don't worry if he'd rather sit on the sidelines. Definitely don't tell him off for anxious behaviour, it's difficult when you feel they are being rude but remember that it's probably you that is most concious of it, others will distracted by general party goings-on.
Maybe he likes observing. Ask questions about what he's seen, show an interest in the way he actually does experience the world instead of telling and showing him that his way of experiencing it is inferior/wrong.
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