How to Develop Social Skills in Children
Social skills are important for a child’s overall development. Good social skills help a child make friends and communicate with them easily. And while for some children, it’s easy to make friends, for others, it could be a challenge, as they may not be comfortable talking to their peers.
As parents, it can be frustrating for you to watch your child struggling to talk to their peers, but you can help your child work on their social skills. In fact, the earlier you start the better. This article highlights the importance of social skills and provides some valuable tips to parents to help their children work on their social skills.
What are Social Skills?
Social skills enable a person to interact and engage with other people in an appropriate manner. Social skills can involve saying ‘Hello and ‘Goodbye’ in the right context for little ones, being cooperative while playing with other kids, understanding when to be grateful and when to apologize, and more. As children grow older, it is social skills that help them communicate in a fun way when required or empathise with someone when they are sad.
Why are Social Skills Important for Kids?
- Social skills help children communicate appropriately and understand how to interact with a stranger.
- They help them understand when they should listen and when is the right time to speak up.
- Kids with good social skills can make friends easily and maintain friendships for a longer period, too.
- They understand how to handle awkward and uncomfortable situations as well as how to stand up for themselves if they are bullied or made fun of.
- Social skills empower kids to accept compliments gracefully and encourage and motivate others when they come to them with problems.
Signs That Indicate Your Child Has Difficulty With Social Skills
Certain children may not be outspoken or maybe shy in nature. But there are others who have trouble getting along with people or have extreme difficulty in interactions. Given below are certain general signs that one should look out for in a child.
- Hesitates to make eye contact, or barely maintains it for a fleeting moment.
- Constantly interrupts while talking or fails to complete a conversation.
- Cannot use the right body gestures or maintain a good distance while talking to someone.
- Jumps to an irrelevant topic in the middle of a themed conversation.
- Has absolutely no interest in what is being said and may not begin or end a conversation politely.
- Has trouble understanding jokes or sarcastic comments or idioms.
- Talks in an arrhythmic fashion without the right voice modulation or intonations for statements and questions.
- May fail to understand what a person is feeling by looking at their facial expressions.
- Rarely asks for clarification even when confused and proceed ahead nonetheless.
- May say the wrong things to the wrong people at the wrong time.
- Barely uses any imagination while talking and talks as if reporting an incident.
- Struggles with understanding what a person would feel if they were to say something or act in a certain manner.
What Can You Do to Improve Social Skills in Your Kids?
There are no specific lessons in social skills that your child can learn. However, there are certain activities and tips that can help parents improve their child’s social skills.
- Engage in play.
Lack of understanding interpersonal communication usually stems from a lack of time spent interacting with people. Give your child a safe space by playing with them so that they understand the basics of communication such as waiting for your turn to speak or to do an action. Concepts of sharing and cooperation are learnt through this as well.
- Help your child understand and express their emotions.
Children who fail to understand the emotions of others usually have trouble expressing their own emotions, too. Help your child express what they are feeling in a more verbose or direct fashion. Interact with them by playing your emotional cues to a high as well, so that they notice them easily. See if their behaviour undergoes a change when your behaviour changes based on your emotions.
- Teach your child the concept of empathy.
Kids struggling with social skills fail to see the need to understand what the other person is going through. They need to see that emotions are not an individual concept but a social construct that allows people to come together, help each other, or give each other space and privacy they need. Help your child understand the reason why a certain person is feeling a certain emotion and ask them how they should behave with them. This way they will understand how to react in different situations.
- Try storytelling.
Tell moral stories to your child and ask them how they would respond in a particular situation. Help them understand the needs and responses of other people in the story and advise them on what an appropriate response in a particular situation could be.
- Help your child join a speaking club or group.
Enlist your child in a speaking club or a group that help improve and master the skillset required for social interactions. Such groups are expert in breaking down the motivations and reasons behind each emotion. This can help your child understand the cause and response to actions and emotions and, consequently, learn to express and interact better.
Activities to Develop Your Child’s Social Skills
There are a bunch of social skills activities for kids that can help your child understand (and master) social interactions in an interesting way.
- Staring contest – By continuously staring at each other, your kid will begin to observe facial cues in a focused manner. This is precisely what makes people laugh out uncontrollably or struggle to keep their face straight in a staring match.
- Using idioms – Make a list of the most popular idioms and use them yourself in the right situation. Ask your kid whether they understand the reason behind using it and then break it down for them.
- Dumb charades – Playing a game that makes extensive use of body language and facial expressions is a great way to help your child learn expressions. Allow your kid to make their guesses as well as express them in the right way so as to learn better what people understand and how best to convey it to them.
- Topic tag – Pick a theme for a conversation and ask your child to talk about it. Have a discussion where you say a sentence and your child has to finish that sentence around the same theme. This will help them keep a conversation going.
- Fictional conversations – Have your child talk to your pet or a toy of their liking. Ask them to check with the object if they’re feeling good or not. Observe how they communicate with them or what they talk about when they are seemingly in private.
- Team games – Engage your child in team sports and see how your child interacts with them.
- Stage plays – Take your child to a theatrical play and let them see how people express emotions on stage. Enrol them in a primary workshop so they have a chance to learn the basics of expression. Acting exercises are helpful in breaking the mould and being comfortable with reading emotions and expressing them.
- Volunteering – Allow your kid to work with organizations that serve and help other people. By seeing how their work directly impacts the well-being of other people, your child will feel more connected to them and learn to empathize with them.
- Exhibitions – Take your kid to science exhibitions or other exhibitions. These are the places for discussions and conversations. Encourage your child to ask questions and ask them to explain the answer to you in their own words.
- Mimicry – Cartoons and funny characters are the best deal for this. Ask your child to mimic a particular character exactly the way they do.
There are enough and more activities and games that will help you improve your child’s social skills. However, along with these activities, what a child needs the most is words of motivation and encouragement from their parents to keep working on their social skills. So help your child. Motivate him to practice, and practice often, and soon enough, your child will be able to initiate and hold conversations all by themselves in no time.
Also Read: Basic Life Skills for Children