Research observes that children who learn healthy social skills at an early age will more likely go on to become socially adaptive members of society, and have lower stress levels than children who weren’t able to adopt these skills when young.
Here’s some other skills and benefits:
• Coping mechanisms are the strategies people often use in the face of stress and/or trauma to help manage painful or difficult emotions. Coping mechanisms can help people adjust to stressful events while helping them maintain their emotional wellbeing.
• Emotional intelligence (otherwise known as emotional quotient or EQ) is the ability to understand, use, and manage your own emotions in positive ways to relieve stress, communicate effectively, empathize with others, overcome challenges and defuse conflict.
• Emotion management is the ability to be aware of and constructively handle both positive and challenging emotions. Through out-of-school programs, youth learn how to process and manage the emotions they develop during group activities and projects, social and emotional learning programs, and those they experience through other events in their lives.
Communication - as always - is key.
It’s critical that a child learns how to interact and communicate with other people effectively, whether that’s non-verbal, verbal-oral-face-to-face, verbal-oral-distance, verbal-written, formal and/or informal. Communication, like any skill, requires awareness, learning and practice. It seems simple to many of us now, but communication is not something that your child will learn in a day or after spending a week in school… The only way to learn good communication skills is to continuously socialize and expose children to social situations. The more a child experiences, the quicker they’ll learn to understand it and live in it.
Early and regular social interaction and exposure to social environments will help your child develop strong language techniques, empathy, creativity and confidence.
Here are 7 important social skills that your child needs to learn:
1. Following directions and instructions
Children who struggle and fail to understand directions are likely to face serious issues and challenges when trying to socially adapt later in life. It often impacts on their ability to reach a desired ‘purpose’ or ‘outcome’ and thus will make completing tasks effectively much harder.
If your child regularly needs to redo their homework because they didn’t/couldn’t follow the directions given by their teacher or often misses/misunderstands directional cues from other people, they may struggle with understanding, following and completing directions and instructions.
Click Here to learn 6 ways to help and 4 mistakes to avoid when trying to help your child improve how they understand instructions and follow directions.
2. Sharing is caring
Showing compassion towards other kids by sharing can help children develop tremendous social skills and long-lasting friendship. Sharing a toy or a snack with other kids shows that your child has learned to develop empathy and connection with others.
Click here to view a short video about the development of empathy (and it’s differences from sympathy)
Learning to listen willingly and effectively will help your child absorb and understand what others are saying and asking, either directly to them or other people, and helps to build empathy through deeper understanding of others. Listening doesn’t just mean being quiet and letting others talk, effective listening includes making a willing connection and engagement with the person doing the communicating.
For young people, effective listening is important for building connections and relationships with family, friends, carers, teachers and coaches. In later years, listening becomes critical in areas such as work, romantic relationships and public places.
Reading to your child, telling stories and communicating clear directions with your child is an essential way to help them learn the skills of listening. Have them repeat these stories and directions, and if you hear gaps or missing parts of information, continue practising until you see improvement. Also, it’s important you help teach your child that it’s not acceptable to interrupt others when they’re talking, even if they’re not directly engaged. Step by step, your child will develop listening skills as they grow.
4. Cooperation, Collaboration and Teamwork
We all work with others in some shape or form, even if we’re in business by ourselves or single and not in a relationship. There’s always some sort of situation or scenario where cooperation and teamwork is an essential skill and requirement.
By the age of 3 to 4 years, children are able and willing to cooperate with their peers to achieve a common goal. Even at this age, some of the children will instinctively take the position of ‘leaders,’ while others will go for the role of the ‘follower’, even if they don’t articulate or realise it yet.
Let your children learn cooperation skills by assigning a task that will require teamwork. In this way, they will develop an understanding of how work and tasks can typically be achieved and completed more efficiently when undertaken in a group than by doing it alone. One common way of applying this teaching and learning at home is to choose a day to do house chores as a family, or to work together as a family on a problem-solving task. On top of collaboration and teamwork, this family exercise will give you all a chance to spend time together, as well as practicing communication, listening, sharing and respect.
5. Eye Contact
Eye contact is important and valuable for a variety of reasons, but put simply, a person who engages in good eye contact with another when communicating will be more likely to deliver or understand the conversation correctly. If you’ve noticed that your child prefers to look away from others during a conversation, try helping them develop this crucial social skill by initiating daily conversations to create a sense of comfort with eye contact. You could also demonstrate what it feels like to not receive eye contact as an exercise, but never approach this skill negatively.
6. Personal Space
It is important to teach a child about respecting and maintaining appropriate personal spacing with other people. While Covid-19’s physical distancing laws and guidelines have basically enforced this, it’s key that children be respectful of someone’s personal space at all times and in all types of environments.
Personal space is the area of space that closely surrounds our bodies. When a stranger is in your personal space, it’s common to feel uncomfortable, closed in, or violated. When a family member or close friend hugs you or comes in close to talk to you, you might feel safe. Children who have trouble showing appropriate social skills may unknowingly invade your personal space. Others may be extremely opposed to you being in their personal space.
You can teach your child about acceptable personal space by demonstrating social cues and reactionary body language. Show facial expressions, eye contact, or body movements someone might make if they’re uncomfortable with you being in their personal space (eg. backing away, crossing your arms, turning your head) and ask your child to spot these cues and respond appropriately to them.
Remember, different cultures have different ideas about personal space and that’s something we all need to be aware of and learn about growing up.
7. Good Manners
Arguably the most important social skill, learning and understanding, the concept of good manners will help your children communicate and relate with others more effectively as they grow up. Children must learn how to best convey their message appropriately, even in times of conflict or debate. A child with good manners will always be respected by peers, parents and the general public.
Teach your kids “the basics” and to use humble words such as;”‘No, thank you” and “Yes, please.” Demonstrate the benefits of being polite to others - friends and foreign. Teach your kids that conflicts can be resolved without yelling, shouting, being loud or being disrespectful. As parents, you have to be your young child’s best role model. They will watch you, listen to you, observe you and learn social skills, and emotion regulation skills from you. Be careful with sarcastic language or role playing if your kids aren’t instinctive to these types of communication, and educate them on context and situational awareness as they grow.
There’s simplicity to much of the information shared, but there’s also critical necessity. Social skills and behaviours are organically learned by (and taught to) children as they grow, but if skills such as sharing, collaboration, listening, following directions, personal space and manners are not correctly understood and adopted, it can result in severe issues and problems in later years.
Growing can be complicated and confusing, so it’s crucial that parents help equip children with social skills that enable them to interact appropriately and successfully both online and offline. The awareness and presence of healthy social skills will help make adolescence, and the journey to adulthood, develop and progress easier, helping to bring understanding, positivity and connection to relationships with peers, family and others. Being accepted in a social gathering is one essential benefit, as is forming and keeping real, mutually beneficial friendships. A sense of belonging and connection is a human need, particularly during the adolescent life stage.