Social skills are very important for children to have as they are something that will follow them into adulthood. Children need social skills for different reasons, such as making and maintaining friendships, expressing their concerns, asking for things, succeeding in everyday tasks, and many other things. When children get to adulthood, it’s these skills that will help them daily with things like meaningful relationships, finding a partner, finding a job, and being involved in social activities. We also know that having meaningful social connectedness and adequate social interactions increases our wellbeing, so being able to have the skills to create this is important!
Social skills are something we may think comes naturally and easily, and we learn this as we go through life - but this isn’t the case for everyone. For example, children with Autism Spectrum Disorder may have underdeveloped social skills and find it particularly difficult to have interpersonal relationships and strong communication skills. They then grow into adults with the same difficulties. So, what are some important social skills for children to have?
Sharing: This skill allows children to show they are social and willing to involve others, which in turn helps them make friends. Children who share can also start feeling good about themselves and increase their self-esteem.
Asking for something: There are many ways to ask for things, but being able to do this in a constructive and helpful way is something that needs to be taught from a young age. Children need to learn not to grab, pull or yell when asking for something, and to always be polite.
Listening: When a child knows how to listen, they are not only showing they can stay quiet, but that they understand. Listening is being able to absorb what is being said, not simply staring blankly.
Cooperating: Children who cooperate show they are willing to work together with others and reach a goal. Most environments a child will be in now and in adulthood will require some form of cooperation, if in a community setting, a classroom, a workplace or within a friendship group.
Respecting personal space: This skill can not only be helpful in building strong relationships, but can help the child or adult avoid confrontation and awkward encounters. As not everyone likes people in their faces, allowing personal space can help a child learn when it’s time to step away.
Following directions: The ability to follow directions can also be linked to listening skills. When a child listens and follows directions, they are much less likely to end up with negative consequences. They will also waste less time trying to do what is asked of them.
Having eye contact: Eye contact is an important key to communication, and although this sounds simple, some children and adults struggle with this. Even if this is difficult to master, it is important to practice.
Having manners: This skill is important in everyday life. Simple things like please, thank you and excuse me will teach your child how to communicate.
There are many ways different ways that a parent or caregiver can help develop these skills with different activities, but the general idea is the same. We have listed some helpful ways to help children build social skills:
Play with your child: Play games that involve turn taking, or wining and losing. This can allow your child to react and mirror your reactions to such situations. This also shows shared interests , cooperation and allows them to understand appropriate play with sharing toys.
Discuss emotions: Talking about the child’s emotions and allowing them to recognise theirs and others emotions is very important for them to be able to express themselves and regulate their emotions, as well as show empathy towards others.
Show empathy: Discussing how people will feel in different situations can also help a child with being empathetic.
Role plays: Role plays provide the opportunity to practice social skills together while spending time together and having fun. Providing scenarios of different situations and acting them out together can help the child learn the appropriate skills to use.
Social skills training groups: Similar to role plays, social skills training groups’ purpose is to allow children to master their social skills with other children. They are usually run by professionals or schools in a safe and controlled setting where children are taught how to use social skills.
Social skills are such an important part of life, however they can be overlooked at times and then other issues come about. We all need social skills to be able to get through life and succeed.
If you would like some support with social skills, then give us a call to make an appointment with one of our team of Psychologists.