There is a very important reason as to why I am only working three days a week right now. It is not because I am lacking in securing contracts and private clients, nor is it a lack of wanting to work. Rather, it is because in these early years of life, I want to offer my daughter the best opportunities that I can, socially. During those three days, I will be working my tail off (more about that later on) so that I may continue to give her these opportunities. I find that the home/school balance is perfect in our house, it’s just a part of our routine and it works for us. Our daughter participates in three major social environments: school, home and community.
Being Social at School
I send my daughter to “school” three days a week so that she can be with her same-age peers (and I can work). During this time she is able to participate in group activities and play without mom peering over her shoulder and monitoring how she is doing. She doesn’t have my voice in her ear asking her to be careful or watch her step. She is in a safe and relatively structured environment that affords her the opportunity to explore in a free and safe space. Going to school is the epitome of being involved in social activity, and regardless of what approach to learning you follow, there are still set parameters in every setting. We are fortunate to attend a school where learning and courtesy is of the utmost importance. Here, social behaviors are learned from both the adults AND children in the classroom. I know she is getting a positive social experience away from mom and dad when she starts naming her friends from school at various points throughout the weekend and throughout our most recent vacation.
Being Social in the Home
These are the days when it is just me and my daughter (or all three of us on weekends and during the summer). This is the time that we get to spend together, doing things around the house like baking, playing outside, or art. On the days that our daughter is not at school being social around the house is still just as important. We see her exhibiting several of her learned social behaviors throughout the day. Some of these behaviors aide in her solitary play with her babies, dolls and kitchen set, while some are extremely helpful with mom and dad. Being social is not always just about being courteous with our friends and family, but it is also being a part of the routine and learning to work together. She helps with the cleaning and tidying of the house and we often work together to cook our meals. The home provides a semi-structured environment where children can continue to learn social skills and tools as related to their parents and siblings. This also gives children the opportunity to bond with mom and dad. In addition, a child learns how to engage in solitary play (assuming there is only one child in the house). This affords the child an opportunity for gaining independence.
Being Social in the Community
This is the area with the least bit of structure, socially. The faces, names and places change pretty regularly as we run different errands, attend different classes and groups, or explore a new park. While there are the rules of watching where we go and holding hands as we cross the street, we are not placed in a setting where you MUST play with the other children or do the same thing as they are doing. Nor are you in a situation where you are being told by mommy to pick up your toys and put them away. During these times in the community, a child is given the choice as to whether they want to be social or not. When at the park, she may choose to play alone, and that is a social decision. However, she may also choose the opposite and continue to tag along with each and every new friend she sees. She has the freedom to do what she wants and without the structure of the home or school. This is also a time to see how far a child’s social circle extends. Do they recognize other children at the park? The teller at the bank? What connections is your child making throughout the community that add to their social behaviors? It is so much fun watching how a child interacts with a “new” person in their world.
What social activities do you participate in with your child? Are you a stay-at-home parent? A Full-time working parent? How do you encourage your child to be social?