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My wife is going to be leaving her job shortly to stay at home with our two children (2.5 and 10 months), which of course is a really big step. She's a Ph.d. in immunology, and is a very gifted researcher; so she plans to spend a lot of time searching for fun activities and strategies for working with our children to keep them active and learning while having fun.

However, we're both relatively asocial people who do very little with others outside of the workplace (or school). We don't go to parties or have nights out with other people, and don't really even know our neighbors very well (they're all very nice, but we're just not chatty people). We're naturally worried about our childrens' social development as it is; our 2.5 year old, who's been in daycare since he was 4 months old, is not exactly a loner but certainly tends to play on his own more than the other kids, and doesn't talk to other kids very much. We live in the suburbs of a major city, so we have a lot of events we can potentially attend (story times and such), but the one time we tried story time, the then-2 year old did not enjoy it at all (although of course we're going to try again).

What are some strategies for not-very-social people can take to ensure their children receive a sufficient education in the social side of things? How can we help them (particularly the 2.5 year old) start to make friends in our area?

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My kids are now 15 and 19. It seems that most of our friends are other parents we met through our kids. If you find regular activities for your kids, you'll find other kids and their parents, same time every week. –  Marc Jan 21 at 1:29

4 Answers 4

up vote 8 down vote accepted

The following portions of this answer are aimed at helping mom get some social time too(this helps to set a good example, plus even homebody's such as myself need time away from time to time anyway):

You might try determining a night or two each month for her to endeavor in an area she would like to "try." She has her career in hand, but has there ever been a hobby she'd like to try but never got around to? or an avocation she'd love to take a class about? Maybe she'd like a book club. This kind of activity will get her out of the house and away from the tedium of small children (something everyone needs) AND might offer her the opportunity to meet some new people with similar interests (she'd have to get out of her comfort zone and introduce herself and chat a little for this second advantage though). For these kinds of activities, the local library and community college or university are good places to start.

Along the same lines, if she is athletic, the YMCA or parks and recreation organization in you area msy offer adult team-sport leagues she could become involved in. Of course, there are also various "club sports" in different locales.

Now for ideas that might help mom and kids

Many mother's join "mom's groups" or "play groups" and meet once a month with other stay-at-home mom's. Its a chance for all the kids to interact and the mom's to network and socialize with other mom's. A site like mommeetmom.com or meetup.com (specifically here) might be helpful if that looks interesting to your wife.

"mommy and me" classes are a good way to meet other moms and their kids (and create some early kid socialization and friendships with moms of kids of the same age as yours - this might lead to cool friendships for the kids later on).
Is there a place she and the toddler can take a class while the baby is cared for that would be of interest to them both? Again, athletic activities like swimming are offered at the YMCA. Some private schools also have such programs in the after-school hours as additional income for the school and I've known of boutique baby stores that offer such classes at the store site as well - a simple search online for your area should yield something.

Ideas for the Kids:

Get the kids involved (as soon as they are old enough) in interest-area classes at least once/week. Parks and Rec in our area offers some crafts lessons, but of course there are ballet and tap classes, various sports to try, and any number of other kinds of activities - again depending on the specifics of your location.

Throughout the summers our library offers far more than storytime with puppet theaters and magicians coming in once/week for special summer programs - Even Home Depot offers occasional classes for kids.

Lastly, at age 2 and younger, most kids really only engage in parallel play anyway so specific socialization with other kids of the same age doesn't begin in earnest for kids until about age three or four when they begin to develop the ability to "pretend" and starting actually playing with, instead of next to, others. For this reason, I encourage you not to stress over the matter too much, but keep it mind and also know that any outing (even to the grocery store) as well as moments they have about learning "manners" interacting with you and other family members and especially in relation to relating to and empathizing with one another are also moments when they are learning social skills. Especially as they move into ages three and four, the more you can sit down together to eat dinner together, the better off they will be even if it is just the four of you in terms of many social skills and in building a conversive relationship with you - the most important people in their socialization - mom and dad.

Good Luck!!

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@Dariusz - changed/edited thanks. –  balanced mama Jan 26 at 1:40

As the extremely asocial mom of the most socially capable ten year old in town, I will expand on one particular part of what balanced mama said: join a local playgroup, preferably one that meets once a week. See if your town has a family association that sponsors one; ask at the library; ask moms you see at the playground. Having a once a week play date already arranged cuts down on the stress of trying to set them up yourself (unless you won't take it personally when you end up waiting days for a call back/email response that never comes because the other parent was too swamped to get to it).

Parents at playgroups are the source of valuable information on local pre-schools, town-sponsored sports and activities, and local art/dance/music studios with classes for children of various ages. And having your kid familiar with the kids they will meet in pre-school and kindergarten takes the anxiety out of these new situations, enabling them to be confident from the beginning, just as starting them in swimming and soccer at the starting age (in our town it was four) lets them be confident in these situations earlier.

But do pay attention to your how kid socializes; as balanced mama said, at this age parallel play is the rule, but as they get older they begin to differentiate. Some will naturally jump in, others will hang out on the sidelines and watch until they are comfortable. The latter may be not truly bloom until you start setting up one-on-ones with the playgroup kids he seems most interested in.

Edit:

Another idea, one no one has mentioned, is find the local soccer fields. As a part-time working mom I would take my kid to the local playground on Saturdays and wonder why there were no kids there. It wasn't until she started soccer and I noticed all the different aged kids racing around on the sidelines that I realized they were all being dragged along to their older siblings' games.

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+1 for joining a playgroup. Sometimes as the "new" SAHM it can feel like it's very difficult to break in to all ready established groups that have been interacting for awhile. Joining a playgroup helps to take that pressure off a little bit as well. Especially if you're more introverted or asocial (raises hand). Sometimes you have to push yourself out of your comfort zone for your kid's sake. –  Meg Coates Jan 21 at 16:41

I had great success taking my kids to the local park. As regular visitors to the park, we would see some families repeatedly. I watched for kids who had a similar temperament to my children, and as our kids played together or side-by-side, I would chat with the mother. There was no commitment to make - unlike with a mothers' group - or expense involved. Over time, I made friends that I was comfortable arranging play-dates with, where we would meet up at the kids' museum or a different park or the library storytime or at one another's houses.

Most of these friendships faded over time, as our kids grew and people moved, but they were invaluable at the time. They allowed me adult conversation, and in particular, conversation about parenting questions. The friendships also meant we each had a babysitter in a pinch, or that one of us could run to the restroom without packing up the kids since the other could watch the group.

Do try story time again - every few months your child is more mature. Also, consider different story times. Most libraries offer multiple programs for different ages and some libraries have programs that either have fewer rules or maybe are a little calmer.

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  1. Play dates and church activities are one way to go. Both parents and children get to mix and play dates are good if you'll aren't very social in groups.

  2. Enrolling them in a regular activity like sports or drama or a craft class might be a good idea too and fun for your kids.

  3. Organizing a carpool would also be useful.

Generally when you have kids its easy to make friends. You find one set of parents that you're comfortable with and they will introduce you to loads more.

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