How to Ensure Your Child is Learning Important Social Skills
Social skills grow as kids learn how to behave in different situations and recognise the rules of verbal and non-verbal communication. Children generally begin to develop social skills from the age of three, when they start to take an interest in others and form friendships.
Not all children develop strong social skills for a range of reasons. They may be shy, isolated or have difficulty understanding subtle cues. Without social skills children will struggle to make friends and participate at school. This leaves them more prone to depression and anxiety.
While professional help is sometimes required, there are many things parents can do to foster social skills.
Actively Teach Empathy
To form relationships, kids need to have a good understanding of how others think and feel. One way to teach empathy is to ask your child to imagine how their friends and family are feeling in different situations by relating these situations to their own experiences.
When kids understand that others experience the same emotions they do, it makes it easier for them to put themselves in another person’s shoes. You can help your child develop curiosity by showing genuine interest in others.
Read Widely Together
Stories are another excellent way to teach empathy and curiosity. Fiction and non-fiction stories contain a lot of subtle information about appropriate and inappropriate behaviour that children will pick up on. Introducing your child to stories about people from many different countries and backgrounds will help expand their perspective.
When reading with your child, talk about motivations, feelings and thoughts. Movies also offer a lot of opportunities for kids to learn about social interaction. Ask questions to gauge how well they understand what they’re watching, but make sure you keep it relaxed and fun.
Children who can’t regulate their emotions find it difficult to meaningfully engage with others. They are more likely to lose their temper or act out feelings of frustration, sadness and disappointment. They may not be willing to share, take turns or listen when people are talking. These are all skills needed to interact socially.
You can teach your child self-regulation by helping them to name their emotions. It’s important for kids to recognise that their feelings are not wrong or bad, but that they need to learn how to manage them. If your child is having trouble dealing with frustration or anger, encourage them to take some deep breaths and remove themselves from the situation for a few minutes if needed.
Find a Hobby
The more practice kids have communicating with others, the stronger their social skills will be. In addition to home and school, kids should also be interacting regularly with other children through sports or hobbies.
If your child dislikes extracurricular activities because they’re shy or don’t seem to fit in, try to find something else they’re really interested in. The more passionate they feel about an activity, the easier it will be for them to relax. Anxiety can prevent kids from learning social skills because they are too focused on themselves, and this prevents them from picking up on social cues.