Wednesday, July 28, 2010

So You Think You Want To Raise A Social Butterfly?

I happen to have some of the weirdest children when it comes to school and church. While most youngsters start throwing temper tantrums when summer nears the end or Sunday morning arrives, my children jump for joy. Church and school are happy places for my kids...maybe because they are born with social skills that crave interactive settings with tons of people, or maybe I have simply raised them well. Considering the fact that I am still evaluating the latter choice, let's stick with the first possibility.

Socialization and children should go hand and hand, as far as I am concerned. Gaining social skills at a young age is crucial for all kids, whether at school or church, or any other gathering  or environment that is safe. My social butterflies are extremely interactive in the school and church environments, and although I worry about the things that may float out of their mouths and embarrass me, I think it is vital to encourage their social experiences and growth in any safe and socially thriving environment.

I understand, however, that there are plenty of children that freeze when placed in a social environment. I can include my youngest children in this category; at young ages of less than two years old, my two youngest children would freeze when someone looked at them, never mind spoke to them. Who knows why...and they eventually come out of their introverted caterpillar stage and progress to the social butterfly stage before the age of two.

There are so many mothers out there that wish above all wishes that their children would emerge from that cocoon and become the social butterfly, too...and, to those mothers, I say: Give it time and patience and a little encouragement and continue to expose them to the social environments no matter how much they clam up, cling, or cry.

Second of all, let me remind you that once you encourage social interaction and your child starts to blossom into that charming and fluttery butterfly that you feel compelled to inspire, you will never be able to turn back the clock. Butterflies do not turn back into caterpillars, dear mothers. You have heard the saying, "Be careful of what you wish for", and my advice is just that when it comes to raising socially free children. Once you have opened that door, you may start wishing that your child would return to that quiet caterpillar, so be sure that a friendly and sociable child is exactly what you desire.

Here are some of my own ideas on how to expand your child's social horizons and encourage their verbatim with other children as well as adults:

1) Continue to attend social environment events and activities even if they scare your child to death and result in her clutching around your knees. Exposure, exposure, exposure is the only thing that will promote the interaction, communication, and relations that you want your child to learn. Communicate with your children throughout the course of the function and inquire about what she is feeling and thinking; this will get her talking, even if only to you.

2) Encourage friendships and offer to invite friends from school or church over to the house for your child to play with. Start with one child at a time. Also, do not hesitate to allow your child to attend birthday parties or play dates due to her shyness. Your hesitation will hinder any efforts that you have put forth to encourage her socialization.

3) Do not be forceful. As with anything that you want to encourage your child to do, being forceful will only make the child more nervous and the feeling of pressure may work against you if you have already made progress. Allow your child to move at her own pace; maintain patience and support while she learns how to open up.

4) Be the social butterfly. It has been said a million times that children learn by example. If you want to teach, you must perform. In social environments, show your child by your own actions how to interact with people. Regardless of the situation, never let your child "feel" your nervousness or anxiety. If you are experiencing these emotions, surely, your child will notice and clam up even more.

Coming from a mother that watches her children flit around like a bunch of beautiful butterflies at social events, while waiting to see which one will say something inappropriate or embarrassing, you are a very fortunate mom right now with your quiet caterpillar. Give her time, love, exposure, and encouragement and she will blossom and fly when she is ready, leaving you behind wondering, "What will she say next?"

Monday, July 5, 2010

Summer Fun

It has been a while since I last updated my blog...things have been absolutely crazy, with the children on summer break, holidays to prepare for, fireworks to attend, pools to hop into to cool off in, and, of course, figuring out ways to relax for a moment.

I have recently been enlightened of a new craft that has inspired my children to create their own "little people" with colorful clothing and hair. Pipecleaners...purchased at Michael's craft store. We had some neighbors whose children were kind enough to share with my children their innovative little creations using only pipecleaners and cotton balls.

I promised my children that we would run to Michael's to purchase some of these colorful crafting supplies, but have yet to fulfill the promise...I will get there (I promise!). So, the other day, as we were running about shopping, we decided to stop at the McDonald's (with the playground, of course), and let the children wear off some steam. Hubby and I were on the tired side, but children never wear out, it seems.

On the way home from the McDonald's, we passed Michael's. I thought the children were going to jump out of the van! "Michael's! Mom, Michael's! Stop!"

"You passed it! Turn around!"


Unfortunately, we chose not to stop. (We had shopped at at least 5 stores and stopped at McDonald's-do you blame me?) But we will get there, after the holiday hangover that the Fourth of July brings along with it has worn off.

In the meantime, these little crafts are so easy for you to get for your children. They are basically self-explanatory, so all you have to do, as the parent, is purchase the items and put them into the hands of your children. They will figure out the rest. I promise I will get to Michael's (maybe I'll go today), because about $5 worth of pipe cleaners and $1 of cotton balls will provide for many hours of creative and innovative thought inspirations for my kids, and what parent does not love that?
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