The holiday season is upon us and with it come many social opportunities. But I wonder how many of us find some of these social moments difficult. I certainly do. I recently attended a small gathering with neighbors and as the evening went on, six of us sat down for some light conversation. For some reason, this is the group size that I am least comfortable with, especially when I don’t know all the people well. And sure enough, as is usually the case, my anxiety got the best of me.
Those of you who have read my posts know that I teach social skills to children for a living. But for me, and I imagine for many of us, there are still those situations that leave me feeling awkward. On this particular evening, as we all gathered around the table, my first strategy was to simply listen attentively without talking much. In these situations, this always tends to be my “go to” plan. But… inevitably the same thing happens. My anxiety begins to build, an awkward pause ensues which I feel obligated to fill, I start talking, and then I don’t seem to be able to stop.
Now I think of myself as someone who is pretty tuned in to social cues and I know that social timing conventions suggest that its best if one person doesn’t monopolize the conversation, but somehow, in the moment, during these awkward group conversations, my need to talk wins out. Some minutes later, once I have stopped, I begin to berate myself for letting this happen yet again. But then, the evening ends and I go back to my family or my close friends and I relax. It is then that I realize just how much I appreciate them. They love and accept me for who I am, for better or worse, and this is an incredible gift.
Accepting Our Kids
It is at times like this that I think of the children with whom I work and how often they feel the way that I felt at this gathering. So many of these kids mean well and really want to be a good friend. They often “know” what to do in social situations but their anxiety or impulsivity get in the way. Social “opportunities” are too often times of stress rather than fun for them. So my hope for these kids is that during this holiday season, they have many opportunities to spend time with their family and friends who know them best, who love and accept them for who they are, who let them just be. I can’t imagine a better gift than that.