Social skills help set the tone for the quality of relationships our children will have throughout their lives. Today’s society encourages children to engage in a more adult world way before they are ready to. Strong, healthy relationships at home go a long way in helping a child navigate the social demands of their growing years. That being said, as parents, a lot still remains for you to train your children in social skills.
Knowing the age appropriate skills for the various levels of your child’s growing years will further assist you in adapting your approach to developing those skills. To help you, I’ve broken these age appropriate skills into the two categories below:
Age appropriate social skills for pre-schoolers and elementary school kids
In order for your child to survive the school environment, they are going to need to have good social skills in the following areas:
- Following the rules
- Following instructions
- Asking for help
- Being kind
- Taking responsibility for their actions
- Taking turns in conversations
- Good listening
These social skills are fundamental to good relationships as they grow older.
Age appropriate social skills for pre-teens and teenagers
As your child approaches their pre-teen and teenage years, their social skills become more advanced. In this time, your child is learning to be more independent, forming a more solid identity and purpose in life, and navigating people’s opinions of them. As such, your child will need some help focusing on the following:
- Be assertive in what they need
- Set their own personal goals
- Resolve conflict well
- Deal with anger in a constructive way
- Be aware of self-defeating thought patterns or behaviors and take steps to alter them.
4 Ways to develop social skills in children
Although you can develop your child’s social skills in a variety of ways, here are a few ideas to get you started. As you practice implementing some or all of these tips, remember to have fun and allow your child time to perfect and sharpen their social skills.
1. Teach by example
A lot of us have heard the saying Do what I say, not what I do. Truthfully, this is an incorrect method of teaching social etiquette. In general, people learn through watching others. Modeling is a successful way to teach people how we want them to behave.
The same applies to our children. If you want them to learn social skills, you need to model it to them. This will hold more weight than your words alone. Teach kindness, empathy, understanding, respect, thoughtfulness, etc., to your child by treating both them and others in the same way.
Teach your children to give people the benefit of the doubt by avoiding comments such as that kid is being quite rude or they don’t want to play with you today. Instead, change such comments to being more positive: I wonder if that kid is having a bad day. Or I wouldn’t worry about it, honey, maybe that kid needs some space. It’s ok.
2. Provide ample opportunities to practice social behavior
Children learn a lot from play whether it is with you, their peers or a mix of both. Playing together will encourage your child to say please and thank you, share, negotiate, and more. Encourage play dates with your child’s friend.
When it comes to playing with your child, let your child take the lead. Doing so will increase your child’s self-confidence while teaching them social skills. They will be more willing to engage with social interactions and have a positive outlook towards other social settings away from their parents.
3. People are important
Respect for all people of all ages is another crucial element in healthy social skill development. Children need to learn to extend common courtesy and respect to others in their actions and communication.
Here, you’ll need to lead by example. Show your children the importance of respecting others by respecting the people around you and them. For your older children, you may need to encourage that they extend respect to people older than them. This may be uncomfortable for your child, so you may wish to practice role playing these sort of scenarios.
Try to correct or address issues in private with your child as another way of showing respect. The way you treat your child will largely define their social interactions with others.
4. Reinforcing tone and emotional awareness
When it comes to teaching your child how to identify emotions through body language and tone, you can do the following as a fun bonding time with your child:
During reading time, ask your child to look at the pictures and tell you what they think the characters in the story are feeling. You can also do this with TV, just turn off the sound. Another option is to make your own DIY book of emotions where you cut out images from magazines or print images of faces to illustrate a variety of emotions. Usually, children are taught three emotions: happy, angry, and sad; however, our emotions are broader and more specific than that. Cultivating emotional intelligence will help your child with their social skills.
When it comes to practicing tone identification, voice record your voice illustrating a variety of emotions in tone. Ask your child to identify which emotion they are hearing in each phrase.
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