Social Confidence At School

Dear Polly,

My seven year old daughter is very confident and outgoing around us and when meeting new kids (for example, even new children at restaurants).  At her parent-teacher conference, her teacher told me that she would really like to see her become more confident with her peers in the classroom.  I was really surprised, as this is not at all what we typically see out of her.  Do you have any suggestions as to how we can help at home to build her confidence in the classroom?

Great question, and one that many parents struggle with at one point or another!  Oftentimes children are more confident and feel more secure when their parents are around.  Even if you’re not right on top of them at every moment, they sense your presence and are able to feel more sure about themselves because they know that you are there to provide protection if they need it.

At school, it often takes children some time to get used to being in a different environment away from the watchful eyes of Mom and Dad.  Because of that, they may seem to lack social confidence in the school setting, even when they are outgoing and full of confidence at home.  For some kids, the development of social confidence takes longer than for others.  Rest assured though that this is still a fairly typical phase of development from preschool through the early elementary years.

To help increase social confidence at school, try inviting a classmate over to your home for a play date.  Your child will be more comfortable interacting with a school friend in the familiar surroundings of their own home with their parents nearby.  Also, some children just prefer interacting with new friends on a one-on-one basis, instead of in a large classroom setting.  More than likely, the bond that develops between the two on their play date at your home will carry over to the classroom environment.  Try this with a few classmates, and it won’t be long before your child will be full of social confidence at school!

Some children have difficulty adjusting to socializing with kids their age when they start school.  Kids who spend most of their time with adults (for example, an only child) or with children not their age (for example, siblings that are much older or younger) can find it difficult to interact with their classmates because they’re simply not used to it.  It may take more time for them to get the hang of the school social scene, but don’t worry, they will!  If this is the case with your child, try to get your child involved in extra-curricular activities with other kids their age to practice their social skills in a fun and supervised context.

If your child continues to struggle with social confidence or skills, check with their teacher, school counselor, pediatrician, or a child psychologist for specific and individualized guidance on how to help them improve in this area.

If you’ve got a question that you’d like to see featured on Ask Polly, just visit my contact page and submit your idea or question.  I look forward to hearing from you!

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About Dr. Polly Dunn

Child clinical psychologist, wife, and mom of four blogging about her 'Perfectly Imperfect' parenting solutions.

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