Our Parents Guide to Developing Childhood Social Skills

In this overly digital world, it’s more essential now than ever that parents continue to value human interaction and the social skills that are so important to our children’s development and well being.  Successful communication, empathy, and listening skills are easy teachable topics for young children to grasp.  They will gain opportunities to learn from others as well as a closer connection to their own emotions and maintain positive interactions with others.  Here are a few topics to help further develop your child’s social skills:

1. Feelings It’s significant that children learn to put a name to what they are feeling.  It helps them to verbally express their feelings. A child should learn to say that he is frustrated or angry without resorting to throwing things or hitting.  A great way to successfully accomplish this is through play.  A game like charades, but with an emotional focus, is a fun way to help your little one gain emotional understanding.  Instead of using movie titles, animal or other typical words, use emotions.  Write down some feeling words on pieces of paper, then take turns picking a slip of paper and start acting out. You could substitute written words for pictures showing the emotion. If kids prefer, you can draw the emotion rather than act it out like in the game Pictionary.

2 .Empathy The value of teaching empathy cultivates sharing and understanding other view points.  Run through different scenarios by asking your child how other people might feel when certain things happen, and substitute different situations each time.

3. Personal Space Discuss personal space by telling your child that it’s vital for everyone to have some personal space to feel comfortable, and practice acceptable ways to interact with someone during playtime.

4. Overtures Practice social overtures by teaching kids the proper way to start a conversation, get a persons attention, or joining with a group of kids who are already playing together. These are all situations that can be talked about and brainstormed at the dinner table, or in the car on the way to school.

5. Taking Turns Practice teaching taking turns by sitting with your child for at least an hour a day and play with him or her to explain what it means to wait, take turns, and share.

6. Eye Contact Good, solid eye contact shows others that we are interested in what they have to say and that we have confidence in our ability to listen.  An enjoyable way to teach this skill is to have a staring contest.  Making a contest out of making eye contact with you can challenge some kids (especially if they have a competitive streak).

7. Listening Listening skills are vital as without them, children cannot learn. They are born with some listening skills, but they need to be amplified.  One of the easiest ways to teach listening skills is to play ‘whisper telephone’.  Whisper a word or phrase into your child’s ear and let them repeat it back.  It will take a while, but you’ll eventually get to a point where you can get your child to listen to and repeat 3-4 sentences.

8. Playdates Hosting a playdate is a great way to enrich your child in the concepts of using rules when a friend comes over in addition to how to be polite to guests and to practice all of these tips for growth.  It would be good to discuss ahead of time any situation that might be uncomfortable.  Go over all the different things the kids can do together, and then have your kid offer their guest three activities to pick from.  They take turns picking activities from there, to avoid fights and to help teach compromise.

Social skills are ideally taught from what is displayed early on at home.  Getting into habits of teaching great social interactions helps to develop effective communication, empathy, and wonderful listening skills which will set your child up for success through to adulthood.  Practicing helps children become socially competent; they will be able to make and keep friends and maintain satisfying relationships.