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Children's Social Skills
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How can parents help their children build confidence?
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Children play alongside other children when they are young, about two years old, but they're really three plus before they actually start to play properly with children. In a sense they can't really make friends in the accepted sense until they're old enough to do that. From three plus they do form friendships but usually they're very short lived. A child's your friend because they're playing at the sand pit next to you, and then another child's your friend because they're playing with modeling clay next to you. They are usually a little older than that, around about five, before they form slightly more lasting friendships. Again, they don't last very long. The children usually have a best friend for that week and then the next week it's a different best friend. So right through childhood the whole friendship thing is slightly changing.
It is very important to encourage your child's friendships. Having friends gives children self esteem which is such huge part of feeling good about yourself and developing well. Children have to feel that other people like them, and that they can keep a friend. It is really important to encourage that by inviting children to your house or having parties for your child. All the usual things, like making friends with their parents in the school playground, that sort of thing.
It really depends on the child. Some children are natual loners and parents shouldn't panic and think, "Oh, they haven't got any friends. There must be something wrong with them." It's really about whether the child's happy with that situation, and if they're unhappy with it, then obviously you want to try and do something about it. If a child's perfectly happy playing on their own or just having an occassional friend, then parents should try not to worry because those are huge variations as we grow through school and adulthood, in how many friends people want. Some people only want one close friend and that's their friend right through school. Some want a whole circle of friends, so parents shouldn't panic if their child seems to be a bit of a loner.
Part of shyness is part of an individual child's personality and probably can't be changed. Not every child can be completely outgoing. But you can teach a child to at least be able to go out and approach another child. Just explain to them the words to use, you know, "can I play with you?", "would you like a turn?" Those sorts of things, you can actually explain to help a shy child. And also, if you are shy yourself, you can try and give a good example of going up and chatting to people, so that they understand it's okay to do that. But not to worry too much, because, you know, lots of people are quite happy being, in a sense, shy and don't need to have a whole circle of friend around them.
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