Kids Social Skills: Quick Guide for Parents
Teaching your child to talk is just part of the deal. Apart from making words into sentences, you should also explain to them what effect their communication and behavior can cast on others. In essence, that’s what good social skills are all about.
So What are Social Skills?
Social skills stand for a group of abilities we use to communicate and interact with others, both verbally and non-verbally. Nonverbal communication includes our body language, gestures, and little personal mannerisms we use for expressing our thoughts and emotions.
Why are Social Skills Important
As Dalai Lama beautifully said:
“We come into the world as a result of others’ actions. We survive here in dependence on others. Whether we like it or not, there is hardly a moment of our lives when we do not benefit from others’ activities.”
At every point in our lives, we are highly dependent on our ability to effectively interact with other human beings. For kids, social skills are a pillar element in development as they also impact other cognitive processes such as executive function development.
If your offspring don’t learn to properly verbalize their thoughts and have meaningful exchanges with others, they may face difficulties later in life. For instance, struggle with building friendships, finding a good job, and building a healthy family of their own.
Research found that kindergarten-aged kids with high emotional and social competency scores were much more likely to be successful later in life. Every one-point increase in either of these scores, resulted in them being twice more likely to get a college degree and have full-time jobs by age 25.
In short, social skills are highly important for kids because:
- They are key to developing empathy, cooperation, and collaboration.
- The level of a child’s social skills further impacts their learning style and ability to make progress.
- With undeveloped social skills, a child is more prone to becoming ostracized by others and developing more serious psychological issues.
In fact, the following types of behaviors can be early signs of poor social skills development:
- Bullying and frequent conflicts with peers/adults
- Frequent anger bursts
- Anxiety and mild depression
- Peer rejection
- Low academic performance
If you are noticing either of these signs, you should spend more time helping your kid raise their social aptitude. Granted, there’s plenty of social skills activities and exercises for that.
How to Improve Social Skills: 3 Solid Strategies for Kids
To be effective, every prescription should address a certain issue. Rather than merely looking into how you can improve your kid’s social skills as a whole, consider targeting specific issues they may have.
After all, social skills incorporate a bunch of different abilities such as:
- Basic survival skills: listening, following directions.
- Interpersonal skills: Sharing, cooperating, joining a conversation, making friends.
- Problem-solving skills: Asking others for help/advice, recognizing when to do one thing over another.
- Conflict resolution skills: Learning when to apologize, handle peer pressure, being a good sport, and so on.
Observe your child and try to determine where they struggle the most. Then try one of the following strategies for improving their social skills.
Teamwork is a skill every child and adult needs in life. After all, you’ll be dealing with groups of people throughout your entire life. The earlier you learn how to do that effectively, the less psychological stress you’ll experience.
If your child doesn’t get along well with other kids, teach them what good teamwork is all about. Create more at-home opportunities for them to show what working together is like and why it’s awesome. For example:
- Explain to them what taking turns mean. When playing a game, talk about why it’s important to wait, share, and take turns. Show that being a team, rather than trying to win a game along gets better results.
- Read stories about teamwork — there’s plenty of books featuring a great power-duo and their might adventures. When reading, take the time to stop and highlight how the hero couldn’t have done the deed without help from others.
- Ask them to help you cook the meal alongside you so that they can really see the results of their work.
To motivate your munchkins, you can also award them with simple kid certificates whenever they did a good job working in a group.
Encourage Active Listening
Without being a good listener, you will never become a master communicator. So teach your kid to proactively listen, retain information, and discern what’s most important from everything being said.
A simple exercise for this is getting more elaborate with your storytime. When reading a book, periodically stop and ask the kid to re-tell you what they remembered. Give the prompts to fill in the gaps and encouragements to keep listening more attentively.
Teach the Concept of Personal Space
Kids (and some adults, too) don’t always understand where the personal boundaries are. This can often result in conflicts and misunderstandings. After all, no one likes an intruder on their turf.
So explain to your kid what personal space is. The easiest way to do so is by example. Teach them that when you are sitting behind the computer, it means that you are busy and don’t want to be interrupted. Mention that some kids at the playground may also need personal space and it’s best to give them a heads-up if you want to play together, such as a small “Hi and “can I join you?”.
Good social skills appear as a result of deliberate practice. As a parent, you should consistently remind your kid of small rules and practice social overtures that they are struggling with. If they can’t make friends on the playgroup, teach them different better ways of starting a conversation, getting the attention they want, or joining a group of other kids.
Talk to your kid, encourage them by a good example. That’s the key to nurturing them into well-rounded adults.
Photo by Trinity Kubassek