Jennifer Hsieh Yang
Top 3 signs I should be concerned about my young child’s social development: Sign #3
Updated: Dec 13, 2022
These are hard times for little ones to be growing up in. For many of these children, all they can remember is a world of masks and social distancing. To them normal is staying 6 feet apart and wearing masks. It’s not a surprise that we are seeing heightened social-emotional needs in preschool aged children.
For many of these children their development will progress typically. As classrooms and schools return back to “normal”, they will have more opportunities for close interactions, and the majority will naturally figure out how to interact with others.
However, for some of these children, they might need more support and guidance on how to develop their social skills. So, the million-dollar question: How do I know if my kid will be socially okay or if he/she needs more help?
In previous posts we talked about the top 2 signs that your child may benefit from professional support (include links to previous posts). The# 1 top warning sign I see as an early childhood clinician is: difficulty sustaining interactions with familiar peers. I get concerned when children struggle to play with and carry-on conversations with other children they know well. They might see these other kids multiple times a week for hours each time and want to be friends, yet they don’t know how to start that friendship.
The 2nd most common sign is: anxiety that is negatively impacting daily life activities or social interactions. Some degree of heightened anxiety is typical having grown up in the COVID-19 pandemic. However, when the level of anxiety gets to the point where kids can’t function in their day-to-day life or are avoiding people or situations, then there is cause for concern.
In today’s blog post, I will talk about the 3rd most common warning sign: Big differences in how well your child interacts with peers versus adults.
My psychologist antennae always go up when a parent tells me that their child is great with adults but does not play great with peers.
Children who are socially interested in others but lack key social skills will often do amazing with adults. They can play and talk with adults for on hours on end and they hear that their kid is a “joy to be around”, “so cute”, and “so smart”. And this is often because adults will cater their conversation and their interactions to whatever the child says or is interested in.
However, when the child is with a similar aged peer, they seem like a different child and they don’t know how to play with or talk to another kid. The child will play next to the other child, but his/her play is independent and may or may not be related to what the peer is doing. There will be limited interaction.
This is because unlike adults, peers will not cater or adjust their play 100% to fit the other’s child interests/activities.
For instance, if an animal-loving 5-year-old boy shows an adult his drawing of a velociraptor having a battle with a king crab, the adult (who may not be interested in predatory creatures) will still say something along the lines of “Oh!! What a neat drawing! Is that a dinosaur?” The child and adult will then have a conversation about dinosaurs and crabs. Versus another 5-year-old child might look at the picture, say nothing, and then continue playing with his/her own toys.
As a parent of a young child, the most important thing to remind yourself of, is that you are NOT alone. There are resources and people here to help you through your parenting journey in COVID-19 times.
Here at Think Happy Live Healthy, we are some of these people. If these warning signs sound a lot like your child, please feel free to reach out to us. We are starting a social skills group for children ages 3 to 5. More information can be found at https://www.thinkhappylivehealthy.com/groups
Also stay tuned for the next blog post about 5 tips to promote your young child’s social development!
About the Author:
Jennifer Yang, Ed.S. NCSP is a Nationally Certified School Psychologist with 12 years of experience in the mental health field. She worked with Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) as a clinician in a Comprehensive Services Site (CSS) for special education students with severe social and emotional challenges as well as a Behaviorist in public schools in New Jersey. She also brings to her work her personal experiences of being a Mom to a neurodiverse child with ADHD. Jennifer is currently working under the supervision of Christine Willing, M.Ed., Licensed School Psychologist, to obtain her licensure in private practice as she is transitioning from working in schools to private practice.