Your child lives in a very complicated social world, where rage, cruelty, and peer pressure prevails. Moreover, social media has introduced children to the world of adults much before they are emotionally ready, thus, robbing them of the experience of learning to build good social skills and healthy relationships with other children.
Developing social skills and interacting with the world around them are critical aspects of kids’ personality development, even more, important than their academic success. It can be a frustrating experience to watch your child struggle to make friends or have difficulty fitting into a certain social setting. Luckily, if your child has healthy relationships at home, they have a good head start, but they’ll need help in navigating through this complex social world.
Importance of social skills
Good social skills have benefits beyond social acceptance and better peer relationships. Children with better social skills are linked to:
· Stronger friendships
· Better educational and career outcomes
· Better success in life
Here’s help to improve social skills in kids:
1. Engage them in group activities they enjoy
When a child is doing something they genuinely enjoy, they are more at ease while building social skills. Whether it is playing an instrument, or joining a club that they are interested in, or participating in a favorite sport – your child is around other like-minded children, making it easier for them to build skills like sharing, cooperating, and working together.
2. Teach them emotions
Begin by teaching them basic emotions like sadness, tiredness, happiness, joy, excitement, anger, nervousness, etc. and then teach them to respect these emotions of themselves as well as of others.
Play ‘identify the emotion’ game by making faces expressing different emotions. This helps them differentiate emotions and express themselves better. It’s also important that you express when you are happy, sad, or upset with their behavior and actions.
3. Teach them empathy
While teaching your child how to communicate, it is equally important for you to teach them empathy. Children need to have a better understanding of how others feel so that they feel connected and form positive bonds with others. Talk about different scenarios and situations with your child, asking them how they would feel when these things happen to them. Teaching empathy also involves listening to others actively.
4. Model respectful behavior
Your child will treat others as how you treat them. So, make sure that you show your respect to them: give criticism in private, not in front of others. Find tactful ways of talking to your kid and their friends about the way they are treating each other when playing together.
5. Encourage eye contact
Encourage your child to look directly into the eyes of the person they are talking to for effective communication and building confidence. You can help your child to inculcate this art by telling them to talk to their soft toys or asking them to tell you stories while looking into your eyes.
6. Encourage them to ask questions
One excellent way for children to initiate and carry on positive conversations with others is to ask questions. Asking questions is also a great way to find out more about others and form connections. Encourage your child to ask open-ended questions that cannot be answered with just a yes or no.
7. Understand your child’s limits
Each child is different. Some are naturally more social than others; some are comfortable in large settings while others may find comfort in smaller groups. It’s wrong to expect all children to interact in the same way. Therefore, it’s important to understand your child’s limits and personality and expect only what they are capable of doing in a social setting.
Social skills aren’t something that your kid has or doesn’t have; they can be learned and made stronger with effort and practice. It’s never too soon to start building your child’s social skills and it’s never too late to sharpen them. So, start with the basics and then continue sharpening their skills over time.
Samidha Raj works as part of the content marketing team at Planet Spark, a platform that provides online classes to K8 learners on “New Age Skills” like, English Communication, Public Speaking, Grammar, Creative Writing, Debating, etc. She is passionate about empowering the youth by educating parents about the importance of 21st-century skills. In her free time, you can find her watching documentaries or animated movies and organizing game nights (board games are her thing)!