It is difficult being the parent of a socially withdrawn child, more so because they find it challenging to develop relationships with peers, display bouts of low self-esteem as a result of which they are at constant risk for anxiety and depression.
Sometimes, the reasons behind the withdrawal can be due to disorders like Aspergers, ADHD, substance abuse or even eating disorders. Even though not a lot of children in India are socially withdrawn (as compared to their Western Counterparts), it is not something that can be ignored.
Here are a few strategies to help parents develop a deeper relationship with such children:
1) Talk, Talk, Talk
Sounds clichéd, but talking to your child is always the best way to get them open up to you. Many times children withdraw due to arguments at school, bullying, low grades etc. Even though it’s a temporary reaction, talking helps you understand the reason behind their odd behaviour. It can also help them feel free to talk to other people.
2) Set an Example, Show Empathy
As a parent, you’re an example to your child and they will almost always emulate you. So set a good example for them and always be at your best behaviour when you’re outside. Be friendly and pleasant, and show your child that it is alright to interact with people.
If your child says something as small as “Namaste Aunty”, be sure that you praise their efforts for interaction, and more so in the company of other people. This will boost their confidence. Tell them that you’re proud of what they did.
Another tactic is to show them that you understand their fear of interacting with others. This way, your child will start feeling more comfortable with you and might actually start opening up to you.
3) Give Them Independence
Children, especially ones in their teens, feel the need for independence with every passing day. Giving them independence will give them a boost of confidence and self esteem, so try and promote more independent behaviour around your house.
Give them responsibilities (simple house hold chores like dishes, laundry, running errands) and make sure you applaud their completion of activity. This new feeling of confidence will eventually help them in the process of interacting with others.
4) Set Goals for your Child
Not many parents know that a decent number of socially withdrawn children actually like being a more involved participant in social activities, but they just don’t know how. In such cases, you can set goals for them which are achievable yet challenging for them. For example, you can ask them to smile and wave at one person every day, asking questions to a teacher in the class once a week etc.
5) Don’t Label Your Child
Avoid calling him shy, especially in front of people. The more your child will hear that word, the more he will associate himself with it, feeling like they are being a let-down to you.