When you have a child who loves sticking to you and you homeschool, the most common conclusion people will have is that the latter caused the former. i.e. homeschooling caused the child to be sticky. Because, it is often assumed that a homeschooled child lacks socialisation skills and friends.

Friends, that is INcorrect. Homeschooling does NOT mean lack of socialisation skills and friends!

Socialisation and the sticky child. Do you have a sticky child? I did! I share 5 tips to encourage your child to step out of his comfort zone without stress.

What is socialisation anyway?

Dictionary.com defines socialisation as “a continuing process whereby an individual acquires a personal identity and learns the norms, values, behaviour, and social skills appropriate to his or her social position.” In other words, socialisation is the process whereby a person learns how to behave in any social situation.

So, when people ask a homeschooler, “What about socialisation?”, they are in essence asking : how can a homeschooled child, whom they assume is stuck at home all day with just the family, be able to function in the world, and get along with other humans 😉

Another question, which is a variation on the theme, is “What about friends?” I must admit that my responses have been far from polite at times, especially that one time when I was asked that question three times in one hour! I am not kidding.

We are all different

Children, like adults, vary in personalities. Some are extroverts, others are introverts. Some are sociable, others are not. Some love group settings, others prefer intimate settings… you get my drift, right?

So yeah, some children are just more sociable, friendly and chatty than others. Homeschooled or not.

Sticky child

But I digress. Back to the sticky child question.  What do I do when a child is extremely sticky to me?

»»» Nothing

Yep, you read that right. I do nothing.

I have noticed that in our family, it is an age and maturity issue. People around us will offer up all sorts of reasons ranging from “the child is shy la!” or “mummy is too protective”, and of course play the “they don’t go to school therefore they don’t know how to act around other people” card. :::roll eyes:::

Don’t push your child before they are ready

I just don’t push it. When they are ready to detach, they will detach. The more you push, the more resistant they will be and, the more frustrated you will get.

Six out of our seven children detested group play when they were younger. Well-meaning people would insist that they join in the group activities. That only caused them to cling even tighter to me.

In fact, I had 2 children who would burst into tears if people should even look at them too long (too long being a relative term). And if they should try talking to those two………..!

Yeah. Fun days – not!

They DO detach

But, we all lived through it. Today, they all love group activities and are fine being in the limelight when called upon. So, be assured that your super sticky child will one day detach from you. He may even end up to be Mr or Miss Sociable. Really! The one who said, “Don’t look me!” to everyone? She loves to perform now!

Here are some of the things I did and hopefully some of them may help you if you have one of those children and are pulling your hair out in frustration.

1. Keep calm.

That’s the first thing to remember. They will one day detach from you and stop crying in social situations. And they will one day run gleefully into a crowd without even a glance back at you. So don’t worry, and don’t force them.

2. Require basic manners

Meanwhile, insist on basic manners. While I understood that speaking to strangers is terrifying to them, I insisted that they at least say “hi” or “hello”. Just one word. I excused them from the full salutation that many other parents would insist on.

As they got older (6 and above), I insisted that they answered questions people directed at them. I told them that they didn’t have to give a speech but just answer to the point. Especially when they were asked a basic question such as, “What is your name?” And they were always reminded of this just before we left the house.

3. No clinging or hiding

I did not allow them to cling physically to me after age 5 or so. They did not have to socialise but they are required to stand or sit beside me or even sit on me if they didn’t wriggle. No “nuah-ing”* allowed!

For that one child who would cry if people looked at her too long, I actually taught her to say, “Please don’t stare at me.” She made it her own by changing it to, “Don’t look me!!!” We still tease her about the time she said that loud and clear to a stranger who stepped into the lift and stared at her. Thankfully, the man had a sense of humour and laughed instead of being offended.

4. Don’t force them to participate

I did not insist that they separate from me at any social gathering, and to “go play with your friends!” Even at Church. For social gatherings, if they chose to not participate at all, then so be it. For Church, they sat with me until they were ready to join the Children’s Ministry without crying or any bribery on my part. This way, I did not have to sit in Children’s Ministry with them. They were always given a choice. Sit with me in service (and no distracting behaviour) or attend Children’s Ministry.

Related Post : Teaching children to sit through a service

I did not do this with our first born and he was quite a terror when I had to leave him with the teachers! 🙁 Till today, I am highly grateful to Wesley Methodist Church’s Sunday School teacher, Aunty Doris, who patiently humoured and molly-coddled David whenever I had to leave him there. But on hindsight, I should have just let him sit with me in service until he was ready to separate. Less traumatic for all involved!

5. Try to see things from their perspective

It is terrifying to have all these strangers shoving their faces into yours, asking you questions and, mauling you all at the same time! So try to understand their perspective. But don’t let this be an excuse for them to be rude. I prepared them before each social event so that they have an inkling of what could happen (it would be crowded and noisy, etc) and are more prepared.

The magical age of 5

Most of mine separated and become naturally sociable by the year they turned 5. So don’t worry if you have a sticky child now. He will separate from you and become his own self, only heading for you to touch base once in a while.  As for my one and only social child, I did have a culture shock when she would follow anyone, anywhere! That opened up another set of problems!

No guilt, no rush

Don’t let anyone make you feel guilty that your child isn’t the life of the party. Or that he is unhappy being passed around. As long as you keep calm and keep on encouraging but never pushing your child to talk to other people, he will be fine. Just like you can’t rush speech or toilet training, you can’t rush your child to be sociable before he is ready.

So as we bring our children out for any social gatherings, let us remember not to be the pushy mom! 😀

*nuah-ing : Hokkien for playing the limp rag doll.


* Originally published on 22 December 2014. Updated 7 June 2017



4 comments on “5 ways to help your sticky child deal with social situations”

  1. Dear Serene,
    It is always pure joy reading your posts. Thank you for sharing this gentle reminder with us fellow mothers/parents.
    My older daughter, Camille, is extremely shy. The church we attend would usually organize a youngsters session for children 6 years old onwards, parallel with the adult service. Camille has always hesitated attending it, preferring to stay with us. I used to force/bribe her in every way imaginable (Life of a first-born :-p). Now, I adhere totally to the same theory you wrote above. Like you rightly put it, one day, eventually, they will detach. And when that day comes, I might just look back with fondness on these times when she would prefer my company than her camarades.

    Warmest regards,
    Michele WONG

  2. It’s such a relief to read your post on this. I have been contemplating having my 3.5 yr old sit with me in service as I was with her in the Children’s ministry for a few months and she still would not go in unless I’m there. We homeschool my eldest and 3.5yr old doesn’t go to school like many of her peers do. I have been conflicted in my decision to have her with me in the service because most of my friends 3 year old kids have little problems adapting. (pressure for me!) Thanks for the reassurance that it’s ok to have a shy child and the very helpful tips!

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