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Ways To Improve Social Skills In Children
Few things can be more frustrating than watching your child struggle to make friends or having a difficult time fitting into certain social settings. There are several steps parents can take to improve social skills in children.
1. Follow Their Interests
Enjoying others will come more naturally when a child is doing something they are genuinely interested in. Whether it’s participating in a favorite sport, playing an instrument they like or being part of a club they’re interested in, this is the first step toward building social skills. It also places a child around like-minded individuals that the child will probably feel more at ease with. While it’s important to be able to socialize with those of varying interests, starting out with other kids who like the same things is an excellent way to more easily build social skills.
2. Learn to Ask Questions
Sometimes when children get nervous or a conversation lags, they may become more introverted and ultimately struggle in future social situations. According to the Center for Development & Learning there are several ways children can initiate and carry on positive conversations with others. One important way is to ask questions. The best way to find out about others and form connections is to ask questions that specifically pertain to the person the child is talking with. Encourage your child to ask questions that can’t be answered with just a yes or no.
3. Cooperate with children
To improve social skills in children, it is necessary to cooperate with them, that means working together to achieve a common goal. Kids who cooperate are respectful when others make requests. They also contribute, participate, and help out. Good cooperation skills are essential for successfully getting along within a community. Your child will need to cooperate with classmates on the playground as well as in the classroom.
A willingness to share a snack or share a toy can go a long way to helping kids make and keep friends. According to a study published in Psychological Science, children as young as age two may show a desire to share with others—but usually only when their resources are abundant.5
However, children between the ages of three and six are often selfish when it comes to sharing resources that come at a cost. Kids might be reluctant to share half of their cookies with a friend because it means they’ll have less to enjoy. Those same children might readily share a toy that they’re no longer interested in playing with.
By age seven or eight, kids become more concerned with fairness and are more willing to share. Kids who feel good about themselves are often more likely to share and sharing helps them feel good about themselves. Teaching kids to share may help boost their self-esteem.
5. Respecting Personal Space
Some kids are close talkers. Others crawl into the laps of acquaintances without any idea that the other individual feels uncomfortable. It’s important to teach kids how to respect other people’s personal space. Create household rules that encourage kids to respect other people’s personal space. “Knock on closed doors,” and “Keep your hands to yourself,” are just a few examples.
If your child grabs things out of people’s hands or pushes when impatient, establish consequences. If your child climbs into the laps of acquaintances or stands too close to people while talking, use it as a teachable moment. Take your child aside and provide some coaching about personal space issues.
6. Teach them emotions
Let your children imitate a variety of emotions—joy, anger, disappointment, excitement, mischief, weirdness, nervousness, tiredness, terror, danger, etc. Play ‘identify the emotion’ game by making faces or holding placards of different smiley.
This helps them differentiate emotions and express better, and not get confused when mingling with other kids or people. “To teach them emotions, it is important that you also communicate to your kids what makes you happy and sad, so when they misbehave I make a straight face and tell them up front that I am upset,” shares Anita, a proud mother of two boys.
7. Use Manners
Saying please and thank you and using good table manners can go a long way to improve social skills in children and help them gain attention for the right reasons. Teachers, other parents, and other kids will respect a well-mannered child.
Of course, teaching manners can feel like an uphill battle sometimes. From burping loudly at the table to acting ungratefully, all kids will let their manners go out the window sometimes. It is important, however, for kids to know how to be polite and respectful—especially when they’re in other people’s homes or at school.
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