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Social skills - complete lack of

(7 Posts)
KMG Tue 02-Jul-02 18:56:38

I am at a complete loss with my son (5 next week). He has the social skills of a cabbage.

His younger brother has the potential to be everyone's friend, life-and-soul of the party, becomes best buddies with strangers at the swingpark, etc. But the elder one is the complete opposite.

He has not the first idea how to get on with other children - how to see things from someone else's point of view. He's not bad at sharing, and is occasionally kind, but rarely gentle.

He is very physical, and sometimes aggressive. He has a minor speech problem, which makes it hard to understand him at first, but also makes him sound very odd.

We are moving in 6 wks time, and he will be starting school for the first time, in a class of children who've done a yr of reception together already. I do not see the slightest chance of him making any friends at all, and the strong possibility of him becoming a bully.

What can I do?

threeangels Tue 02-Jul-02 20:26:15

Is your son ever around other children (especially his own age)? Maybe he needs some time around others to help him with the social skills. My 9 yr old is very energetic and socializes with everyone. My 12 yr old son is not too social with other children. Hes more of a quiet person. They just have opposite personalities which is normal. You might be very much surprised when he finally does start school. Kids make friends so easily. I think he may need some time to be exposed to other kids. Starting a new school and class for the first time might seem scary since everyone already knows each other. The one good thing is that the other kids might pay a lot more attention to him since he is knew. Kids at that age love it when there is a new friend to play with.

KMG Wed 03-Jul-02 08:33:09

Sorry, should have added - he does go to a nursery class every afternoon (2.5 hrs), plus one morning at playgroup, and since birth we've always gone to plenty of toddler groups, etc., so he's always had OPPORTUNITY to get on with his peers ...

angharad Wed 03-Jul-02 10:51:27

Have his nursery said anything to you about your son's social skills? Have you approached them? Please don't forget that not everyone is/wants to be ultra gregarious, in the thick of things (me for example!) Children do things at different times but perhaps you should have a chat with his new class teacher?

tigermoth Wed 03-Jul-02 13:25:08

I don't know if this is going to be helpful, KMG, since I haven't had direct experience of this problem, but my 8 year old son has been to three nurseries and three primary schools and so he's been the 'new boy' more often than we'd like.

Even though he was and is sociable, I can't say that he made many good friends at nursery. He was rather boisterous, so this probably put off the quieter children. He used to play happily in groups, but we never got into the meeting up in the park, invitations back to tea routine. But then I was working, so I wasn't there to pick him up, chat to other parents, issue invitations etc.
He made more friends at his schools - I think children do form more lasting friendships then, anyway, as they get past five years. Also in my son's case, any tendency to aggression slowly abated from age five as well, so he didn't get labeled as a bully, despite my previous fears.

Hopefully, you might find this too. Also, IME, classes vary - just the personal chemistry of 30 or so children could make one set of classmates seem more friendly to your son. My son definitely found one of his schools more friendly than the other. Hopefully you'll strike lucky with your son's new school.

I think there's quite a lot you can do to help your son make friends. As already suggested, have a word with his class teacher. They might pair up your son with another child who will show him the ropes. This happened to my son on two occasions and it really helped him settle in.

Also, be proactive in getting to know the other children and parents. More easy if you are there to take and collect him, but not impossible if you don't have daily contact with the school - school events crop up with great regularity. I get my son to tell me who he's played with, point them out to me, show me the parents, then I'll introduce myself, and if all is going well, at some point I'll suggest their child comes round to tea etc. It took me ages to get into the swing of this, by the way! Having a fledgling friend round to tea helps me see how my son behaves with them as well. Also, your son is old enough to join different clubs and activities so you and he can meet his classmates outside school.

Anyway, hope these suggestions help. IME friendships do form more easily at school than at nursery. Hope the same is true for your son.

mollipops Fri 05-Jul-02 07:33:33

Hi KMG, do you think maybe he is self-conscious about his speech and is therefore a little defensive around other children? Has he been teased in the past and now tries to establish himself as "dominant" early on, which of course makes him come across as non-sociable? Has he had speech therapy or do they think he will gradually grow out of it?

I would talk to your GP or HV about it, everything you have mentioned here; social skills are vital and do need to be learned. They seem to come naturally to some children, but others struggle with the concept of empathy and even just how to make/be a friend. Decision-making and choices are difficult for them too (consequences etc).

He might need your help in making the first moves to make new friends at his new school. You could also make up some scenarios to see how he would respond to some things, eg being asked if he wants to play, being called names, being asked by an aunt how he is today, being invited to a party, receiving a gift he doesn't like, being told by a friend that his (the friend's) dog died. Talk about his feelings in each situation, and how the other person might be feeling. Make suggestions of what he could say or do to help him cope in these situations.
HTH, let us know how he's going.

fish Fri 05-Jul-02 22:25:38

About your bully fear: Build up his self esteem like mad and he may never feel he has to get his own back on anyone. With all the probs he needs to know you're confident in him and think he's amazing. I think I'd find out about your new area's sports/arts facilities and throw yourself into finding things outside school that he really likes, so he's not grafting the whole time. Have a go at gym, swimming, footie, trampolining, dance, art, music, maths, anything he's got a feel for. And a fun class brings him into contact with another, new set of kids, so all his eggs are not in the school basket anyway. And I wouldn't book his brother in to the same class! Best of luck. Maybe not kickboxing, eh.

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