Q My six-year-old son really struggles to mix with any groups of children. He says that other kids are not nice to him. He is settled in school and does have one good friend there. We try and organise as many play dates as we can with this friend. For the most part, he seems relatively untroubled by his unsociability. Should I force him to attend camps and activities? Is there anything I can do to help him mix with the local kids? Or do I just need to leave him alone?
David replies: I think you could quite happily leave him alone. There are many children whose temperaments are well-suited to having time alone, and time with others either singly or in very small, well-known, groups. Similarly, there are children that thrive on lots of social interaction, who derive great satisfaction and energy from being with other children, including making new friends easily.
Neither temperament is better than the other and neither represents a problem in its own right. If your son is settled in school (which is a very social environment) then that is an indication that when he has to cope with larger groups, he can. He has made a very solid friendship, so you can be reassured that he has the skills to make friends, if and when he chooses.
You can certainly consider camps and activities for him, but choose them on the basis of the activity and how much he might enjoy it, rather than as a means of forcing him to be sociable.