There are some kids who are naturally more socially adept than others. Then there are those too who don’t fit that mold or who struggle to even be nominated for popularity contests. Just like any other skill, improving social skills can be taught. Although being social isn’t the end goal in itself, it’s important that kids can form meaningful bonds with peers, appropriately interact strangers their own age, and possess skills to help them adapt in uncomfortable situations.
Kids need to develop social skills to succeed in most school activities that require listening to others, getting along with others, being responsible, taking turns and asking for help. On the surface it sounds like these skills are fundamental behaviors but the truth is a large population of children have never been taught these skills or there may be a disability like ADHD or kids with high functioning autism that interfere with a child’s ability to learn these skills. These tips below may help hone your child’s social GPS.
Older kids in middle school and high school have a more complex set of social skills to learn, all thanks to adolescence and life just gets more complicated as you get older. This is a time when a teen seeks more independence, groups of kids form cliques and a child makes certain decisions about who they are and what they want to be. They also start to care more about what other people think. During these formative years, adolescents can learn to be more emotionally intelligent. Here are a few strategies to help your child learn some necessary social skills.
Tip #1: Model Social Skills
The first place to learn social skills is at home, and what parents do is often more important than what they say. Don’t worry that children don’t listen to you; be concerned that they’re watching you and the choices you make. Modeling good social skills includes being friendly to strangers, showing confidence when you relate to others, offering to help others and treating other people with respect. What’s great about being a parent is that it forces you out of your own shell if one exists and can make you a better person by your personal desire to share positive attitudes and behaviors with your children.
Tip #2: Don’t Label Shy Kids
If your child feels insecure or is naturally shy, don’t label them as much or force them out of their shyness. For a child that’s naturally anxious, experts recommend empathy and a consultative approach. Acknowledge his or her feelings and share how they might be able to overcome fears while teaching them effective strategies to deal with shyness. Another reason why you shouldn’t label young people as shy is that it can be a self-fulfilling prophecy. True shyness mostly starts out as an enforced habit.
Tip #3: Give Lots of Opportunities
Children learn social skills from their parents, and to a large degree from their peers. So the more chances your child has to interact with others, the better. This means encouraging and supporting your kids’ friendships. Also, kids learn important skills just by playing with you. Research shows that children with parents who frequently play with them have more advanced social skills and get along with their peers better. Play with them on their level, and follow their lead in a friend-like way.
Tip #4: Relax
With all that’s said, chances are that your child is already learning good social skills in the same way that many of us do, which is by picking things up as they go along, the trial and error method. You don’t have to worry or intervene too much, unless you see that there are serious signs of social trouble, such as discipline problems in school. Many kids that appear to be insensitive, have true learning disabilities or even unkind with peers are often socially clumsy and may need some help through planned social skill activities.
In these cases, you might want to take a more active approach when it comes to helping your kids. We are aware of a speech language pathology center in New Jersey that focus on improving social skills to New Jersey teens and middle school kids. The task of teaching social skills to children works best when small groups of like aged kids participate in social skills activities with a certified counselor close at hand or even involved in the process.