We have a holiday get together every year where we enjoy a very large gathering of current and former families who attend. Some of these families now include college age children which creates an environment of a large group of grown-ups.
This is Olivia’s first time attending the event as they were out of town the previous year.
We always alert families to prepare their children for the number of people attending and the disproportionate number of grown-ups vs. children.
Many of the other new and young children are visibly enjoying themselves. Some of them are a little quieter than usual, but comfortable leaving their parents to interact with their friends and enjoy the activities and food.
Unfortunately, Olivia’s parents have forgotten to inform her how many people will be in attendance and exactly how she can navigate the large group and play with her friends.
As she turns the corner of the building and sees the crowd and activity, she stops, lifts her arms to be picked up and is crying as she enters the daycare.
Needless to say, we are really surprised by her behavior and react in puzzlement. Her parents are attempting to calm her down (unsuccessfully) and realize that they had forgotten to prepare her for the extreme change in the daycare environment.
Even Olivia, who is usually prepared for her circumstances, and handles them well, can be completely unable to adjust to the unexpected instantly.
The family finally leaves the event early regretting they were unable to stay and have special time with their friends.
They admitted that in the future, preparing her for new challenges will never be neglected.
1. Give your child general information. In this case, that the number of people present will mostly be strangers as well as grown-ups.
2. Assure them that you will be at their side initially while they are adjusting to the environment and will be assisting them to connect with something familiar or of interest to them.
3. Always practice some verbal interactions, short phrases/sentences that they can call on when needed.
4. Assure them that you will expect them to speak for themselves.
1. Instantly label them in new situations as shy. In most cases, they are simply unprepared and have relied on you to speak for them. It is amazing how easily that label is used, often with long lasting negative effects.
2. Automatically assume they cannot handle change and challenges. It’s the preparation that makes the difference.
3. Insist that they stay beside you. Instead, give them latitude to instead be in view when it is safe. It is opportunities like these that build their confidence and skills.
You want your child to be confident, skilled and socially interested.
Support and inform them!