Developing social skills in children prepares them for a lifetime of healthier interactions in all aspects of life. Social skills are an integral part of functioning in society. Displaying good manners, communicating effectively with others, being considerate of the feelings of others and expressing personal needs are all important components of solid social skills. Helping children to develop these important skills requires a different set of strategies in each stage of development.
It seems like some children, like many adults, are more naturally socially adept than others. These are the kind of people others gravitate to and for whom making friends comes easily. Like any other skill, social skills can be learned. What is important, however, is that children are able to form meaningful bonds with others, can empathize and interact with others appropriately, and have the skills to adapt in uncomfortable situations
One can start by instilling social skills in their infants when they are very young. Babies are unable to tell you what they want directly. This means you will need to pay attention to the actions and non-verbal cues that your baby gives. When you know what your baby needs, give it to them. If that doesn’t work then you may have misinterpreted their needs, and you should try something else.
Adults sometimes make the mistake of assuming children play just to pass the time. This is not true. In fact, children gain most of their skills through playing. This is how they explore the world around them, and it should be encouraged for them to learn new skills while playing. While your baby is exploring their world through play, they will learn new skills. It is up to you as a parent to reinforce those skills by giving your baby positive feedback. This makes your baby feel confident and secure in their development.
As they grow older, it is important to discuss feelings with your toddler, so they are able to understand and interpret feelings, of others and their own. Through your discussion of how they feel, they begin to learn words associated with those feelings and can later use those words to talk out their feelings. This will help them transition to talking about feelings instead of acting out their frustrations.
In general, children will have developed certain social skills and social cues by these ages:
2- to 3-year-olds: able to seek attention from others, initiate social contact with others both verbally (saying “Hi” and “Bye”) and physically, look at a person who’s talking, have the ability to take turns talking, and laugh at silly objects and events.
3- to 4-year-olds: are able to take turns when playing games, play with a doll or stuffed animal, and initiate verbal communication with actual words.
4- to 5-year-olds: are able to show more cooperation with children, use direct requests (like “Stop”), are more prone to chatting, and pretend play.
5- to 6-year-olds: are able to please their friends, say “I’m sorry,” “Please,” and “Thank you,” are more strategic in bargaining, play competitive games, and understand fair play and good sportsmanship.
Playdates are a crucial part of growing up. Having a playdate is a great way to introduce your child to the concept of using rules when a friend comes over and to teach him how to be polite to guests. You can go over all the different things the children can do together, and then have your child offer his guest three activities to pick from. You can have them take turns picking activities. This will help avoid disagreements and teach them about compromising.
The following strategies can help enhance your child’s social development further:
Teach empathy: Run through different scenarios by asking your child how other people might feel when certain things happen, and substitute different situations each time.
Explain personal space: Tell your child that it is important for everyone to have some personal space to feel comfortable, and practice acceptable ways to interact with someone during playtime.
Practice social overtures: Teach kids the proper way to start a conversation, get someone’s attention, or join a group of children who are already playing together. These are all situations that can be discussed and brainstormed at the dinner table, or in the car on the way to school or activities.
Go over taking turns: Sit with your child for at least an hour a day and play with him to explain what it means to wait, take turns, and share.
In order to build gratifying human relationships, it is vital that children learn and have the opportunity to practice the social skills considered appropriate by society. It is important to teach children to conduct themselves in ways that allow them to develop relationships with other people.
As most children grow older, they interact more and more with people in situations where direct supervision by parents is not possible. Drawing from what they have learned at home and school about socializing, children make friends within their peer group and soon learn more about socializing, hopefully refining their social skills as they grow and mature. These friendships are important for all children to develop. Friends serve central functions for children that parents do not, and they play a crucial role in shaping children’s social skills and their sense of identity.