My son turned 3 in September. He is a very loving and sweet child when it is just the two of us at home. He only has one friend his age and she is a girl that he doesn't see that often but he seems to play ok with her. He has lots of cousins 6 and up that he does great with. I really try not to spoil him or allow him to act out but when we are in public and he gets anxious he acts out and mostly at me. I signed him up for soccer in hope that it would help him learn to share and socialize but he doesn't want to play with the other kids and when I try to go out with him he clings to me and if I ask if he wants to have a turn he gets embarrassed and hits me. I have struggled with social anxiety so I understand what he is feeling but I don't understand how to take control and make him understand that its ok to play and its not ok to hit when you're scared. His vocabulary is very well developed for his age but when someone asks him a question he shuts down and clings to me and wont talk at all. All of this brings my own anxiety out because I want him to play and learn that its is fun to play and make new friends. I feel that is something I myself missed out on until I was older and I would hate to see him do the same. If anyone has any advice I would really appreciate any help on the topic. :)
My 3year old son seems to have social anxiety..?
this doesnt sound that extreme for his age. I would slowly introduce him to things and activities. I'm not sure about the hitting but he may be responding to you because you are the one puting him in that situation. Is there a way to get into this stuff but more on his terms? Like playing soccer with his cousins a few times and then going to he soccer team.
I live pretty far out, his cousins (whos parents work on the weekends) are on the other side of the county and his games are at 9:45am. I play soccer with him during the week and he loves it but he just shuts down at the field. He pretty much shuts down when anyone new tries to talk to him. The thing is once he gets comfortable with people he is a a total HAM. This is exactly how I was for the majority of my life but I never did the hitting thing. I just don't know how to make him feel safe and comfortable enough to relax and socialize with the kids at soccer or if someone new tries to be nice and talk to him. I have gone out with him and he just wants to cling to me and if I mention giving it a shot he gets embarrassed, mad and shuts down even more. The whole point of getting him in soccer was to try and work on this issue. Even when we are at home he acts like hes so excited to go play then when we are there he just shuts down and wont listen to me or the coaches and gets mean. :/
I was a horibly, awkwardly, shy and anxious kid. I conquered some of it when I got to college and realized I couldn't live my life like that and I forced myself to go outside my comfort zone. Now with DD I find that if I want her to act a certain way the best I can do is to model it for her. She's nowhere near the anxiety level I had - in fact I've been known to call her my "walmart greeter". Just recently she's hit a shy patch and introductions to knew people can make her clingy, even crying when I have to hand her over to her ISR swim teacher - BUT I don't react to her fears, I keep a happy face, I talk her through it without coddling (I'm a dg trainer so maybe it helps that I've worked with a lot of fearful dogs and know I can influence them with my own attitude and feelings) and she really gets stronger everyday - and I feel better too! Just talking to a stranger on the playground used to freak me out, but it's becoming normal and all those small steps and successes add up. So do your best to take a small leap everyday and he will totally see that and follow your lead :-)
My daughter took a long, long time to warm up to new places and people when she was younger...in fact, probably until she was 5. We just kept gently but persistently testing out the waters and nudging her ever so slightly to the edge of her comfort zone, and now at almost 7 she will talk anyone's ear off and bounds away from me in any social setting. I wouldn't force, per se, but I would just keep at it. He's still pretty young - at that age, there was a 50% chance my daughter would visibly snub/harumph/armcross/scowl/growl at people when we were out. That was a fun stage
Oh yes....I made sure to not label her as shy, or whatever, and would instead just say the words or model whatever it was for her, like, "Wow that was nice of her to ask you for a turn! She'll come over if she wants to try." or, "Thank you for the sticker" or, "That man said hi - it's polite to say hi back or wave - (then I'd do it)". I didn't want to saddle her with being the shy one/grumpy one/etc.
This was NOT easy for me to get through with her, as I am a very outgoing person. And I agonized over it with friends at times. But, we muddled through it and she came out the other side pretty darn well if I do say so myself. lol. She still has a honey badger inside her, but most of the time it's napping now.
I just wanted to address this part of your post because it sounds exactly like my son. He hates being put on the spot like that. We have to do a lot of warm ups towards a new activity than simply try to get him to do it the first time around. My son is an observer. Watching the scene is part of the way he takes in social situations. It is key to give him time to do that.
An example, we have a soccer game every week. The first time he went he requested:
1. He be allowed to watch and not participate.
2. He not be bothered by kids coming up to him and asking him to join them or questioning why he wasn't playing.
3. He be allowed to take his book so he could sit and read instead of playing soccer, if he didn't want to play soccer.
These were his conditions and we readily agreed -- which then made him feel like he has control over his interaction and no one was going to pressure him or force him to do things he didn't want to do.
Your son is young. I remember similar issues when mine was younger too. Maybe you could just take a step back and let him control how and when he will interact with others. This way, he feels like he can do it at his own pace.
He just sounds introverted to me! I think it's really important to respect the nature of introverts and support them in social situations, understanding that they operate differently from extroverts and that there is nothing wrong with only having one or two friends and needing time to warm up to a situation. It is very, very draining for introverts to be around a lot of people, and they typically need lots of quiet/alone time afterwards to recover. Some kids are just watchers, not doers. There's not a problem with that, and trying to change it will only cause anxiety and headaches for everyone involved.
Here is a simple infographic that I think is really helpful:
Best of luck!
My DS1 had/has social (and general) anxiety. I would guess that his was more severe than your son's. We have handled it by trying to balance respecting where he is/ following his lead and GENTLY pushing him outside his comfort zone. We also tried soccer at age 3 and it was a total disaster. He continued to resist team sports for years, but has just asked to play hockey next year (he is now 8.5 yo) We have found that he generally comes to things later than other kids, but he seems to get there eventually.Last weekend he went to his first sleepover party and had a blast. DH and I were stunned. We were sure there would be a 2am phone call to pick him up.Having said that, he will likely always be an introvert- which DH and I are.(Nothin' wrong with that!)
At age 3, I would probably just try to expose my son to more kids his own age through drop in centres or mom and me classes.
i haven't read all the responses, so sorry if im repetitive...
It sounds a lot like my oldest... We just kept signing him up and letting him do what he wanted/was able, and today(at 7 years old) he bounds out of the car before its parked for classes and stuff... I think a lot of it has to do with maturing/etc...
Another thing you could try... would the coach and coach's kid be agreeable to coming out 15 minutes earlier to play soccer with you and yours? That way you could get him used to playing in a smaller group first, and that might carry over into the bigger group? Way back when, if i signed ds1 up with a friend he was much less clingy :)