Helping Your Child Master Small Talk

by Ann Douglas

small talkIs your preschooler shy or not much one for small talk? Don't worry, most adults aren't either. Helping and supporting your child are key.

It's not uncommon to see preschoolers hiding behind their parents or staring at the floor ignoring the "stranger" who's talking to them. Most parents have "been there, done that."

Then, there are some preschoolers like my friend's four-year-old son. He's afraid of speaking to strangers so he barks instead!

Either situation can be embarrassing for you and your child. What can be done for these challenging moments?

This is definitely one of those "good news, bad news" scenarios. Here's how you can help get your preschooler talking, not hiding. No one ever claimed that small talk would cause severe damage.

First, here's the good news. Your child isn't doomed to spend the rest of his or her life switching into canine or ninja mode whenever your child meets someone new. If they continue to do that, that's something to watch for down the road and consider speaking to a specialist for advice.

Now for the bad news. It can take quite a while for kids who aren't natural-born social butterflies to master the art of making small talk. Don't get frustrated if your child takes weeks or months instead of days.

• You can give your child the chance to role-play situations in which he or she is meeting someone for the first time.

• You can help your child figure out how people typically act in such situations.

• Give your child the tools so he or she can easily respond to the types of questions that people typically ask one another when they are first introduced.

If you take the time to coach your child, you'll probably find that your tot will be less likely to bark and more likely to smile and say something friendly as he or she gets a better handle on what you and others expect of him.

How have you made this transition easier for your child?

Ann Douglas is the author of numerous books about pregnancy and parenting including the bestselling "The Mother of All Pregnancy Books." She regularly contributes to a number of print and online publications, is frequently quoted in the media on a range of parenting-related topics, and has appeared as a guest on a number of television and radio shows. Ann and her husband Neil live in Peterborough, Ontario. with the youngest of their four children. Learn more at her site,

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