Our role as parents involves influencing our children as they begin to communicate. It's our job as parents to reassure them and help them learn to interact with positive reactions as they begin socializing.
The Start of Socialization
During the first year of life, child spend their time developing physical skills. This changes during the second year of life. During the second year (between 12 to 18 months) children begin to develop their socialization skills. Due to their increasing interest of their surroundings, toddlers begin enjoying the presence of others.
While their communication skills during this time may only consists of biting and screaming at their play mates, it's part of their development. Our job as parents is to use this time to show them appropriate behavior and to encourage and praise the positive communication skills they are developing. This is the time we as parents need to show our children how to express themselves with words and not emotional outbursts.
The Next Step
Around 19 to 25 months, a toddlers ability to socialize with others increases greatly. This is generally done by trial and error at this age. While many toddlers remain skittish around others and even lack the skills needed to share, this is the ideal time to begin play dates to allow them to develop their skills with sharing. Play dates are another great way for toddlers to become comfortable around peers. While many toddlers jump right into interacting with other children, others remain skittish. This is perfectly normal. It's not something that can be rushed. Toddlers need to develop this area of socialization at their own pace.
The Turning Point
The real turning point with toddler socialization occurs around 26 to 30 months of age. This is when children will generally pick one or two friends and stick with them. This is due to the fact many children at this age are very self-centered. This is not a fault, it's simply the inability to relate to others yet. At this time, we can often mistake our toddlers actions as being impolite, but this isn't the case. This is the time we need to take the opportunity to show them polite interactions, such as saying "hello" and "good-bye." This not only shows toddlers how to be polite, but respectful of others.
At the age of 31 to 36 months, toddlers can actually begin having conversations with their peers, even if they are imaginary. This is an important age for toddler socialization because they can now form actual relationships with other children. By now the lessons of manners have sunk in as well as sharing- for the most part. The main concept that needs to be focused on during this developmental stage is the ability to empathize with others.
It's common for toddlers to react inappropriately to certain situations, such as if their friend bumps their head. They may laugh instead of seeing if their friend is ok. This is typical behavior for this age. Our role as parents is to show them how to empathize and encourage the behavior when they do.
A child's socialization skills don't end here. The ability to learn to socialize will continue will into their teenage years and even into adulthood. It's a skill that develops over time and is constantly needing to adapt. As parents, we are our children's best teachers when they begin to socialize. Setting the correct path in front of them when toddler socialization begins, will give them a firm foundation to continue to develop as the grow.