Social skills, also known as interpersonal skills or soft skills are important for everyone irrespective of age. Human beings are social animals and having strong social skills can help you build and maintain successful relationships both professionally and personally.
Some kids are naturally more socially-adept than others. Not everyone is born with social skills. It is a skill just like anything else and some kids need some social “tutoring.” Like any skill, social skills can be developed and refined with practice, but by helping develop good social and communication skills in a child from their youth, you are equipping them straight away with the skills to build a successful future.
Here are a few ways that you can adapt to help your child develop different facets of this life skill…
- Be Social yourself
Always remember that you are your child’s first teacher. He learns whatever he/she sees. You can’t expect your child to develop good social skills out of the blue when you spend most of your time doing chores or relaxing in front of the TV. Take your time out and interact with friends and family and slowly your child will start imitating you. If your child continuously watches you swirling into a cocoon shell because you are too shy for conversations, chances are they will start doing the same. When going out or meeting new people, involve them in your conversations. Start by getting them to answer the simple questions which are often asked such as “What is your name?” or “How old are you?” These are some very basic questions but don’t answer them on your child’s behalf. Get your child to say it.
- Show, Don’t tell
Actions speak louder than words. If you want your child to be kind, be kind yourself. Just merely preaching without practicing won’t do any good to your kid. Your behavior speaks volumes, and your children will remember it far more effectively than what you have told them. If you want them to learn basic etiquettes, show them. For them to be polite, you need to remember saying sorry and thank you to everyone, including your children. By getting very angry or messing up a situation, don’t just behave like it didn’t happen. Rather, when you are calm talk to them and apologize for your behavior and make them understand that your behavior was inappropriate.
The most important thing is you have to do it too.
- Importance of Eye-contact Encourage your children to look into their eyes while talking. It leads to effective communication and helps build confidence. When you keep eye contact with the person you are talking to it indicates that you are focused and paying attention. It means that you are actually listening to what the person has to say. Many children may have eye-contact anxiety. You may have to put in an extra effort in that case. If your child has such issues, get them to talk to you, maintaining eye contact.
- Teach them to listen
Listening is a very important tool. Many people don’t listen and they try to jump in before someone finishes his/her statement. If your child does so, teach them to be patient listeners. Before they are good speakers they need to be good listeners. This is the key to building a good relationship.
- Teach them Emotions
A child must be able to identify different emotions to spot social clues. Try playing a game. Get your child to imitate different emotions or show them pictures of different emotions like joy, anger, disappointment, excitement, mischief, weirdness, nervousness, tiredness, terror, danger, etc and get them to identify. This helps them differentiate emotions and express better, and not get confused when mingling with other kids or people. “To teach them emotions, you need to understand them and you also communicate how you feel. If they make you mad, make a straight face, and tell them that they are upsetting you, their behavior makes you mad.
- Make them Communicate
Communication is fundamental to children’s development; children need to be able to understand and be understood. Talk to them, ask them how their day was, and never turn away your child when he wants to say something. This may have a very negative influence on them.
Some really good ways to make your child communicate are
- Get their toys and make a puppet show, show them how conversations are made if your child is socially anxious.
- Roleplay- If your child is going to be in a new environment, roleplay with him how he is going to meet new people and start a conversation. You can start with basic questions and get your kids to answer them.
- If you have elders at home, they can be very helpful in building confidence in your kid.
- Give them Environment
Get your child comfortable so that he can freely express himself. If your child is socially anxious help them get comfortable by striking a conversation and then slowly getting them into the conversation. Don’t just leave them alone saying they need to learn it themselves, take one step at a time. Give your child the chance to meet with different people, the variety in people may help them know things differently and get them to adjust better in situations. Playschools, playgrounds, and hobby classes will give them a chance to socialize.
- Teach them about personal space
Everyone feels more comfortable when the person they are with, respects their personal space. Some children may come up and sit in your lap, hug you without permission, touch your hair, play with your necklace, touch a design on your shirt, or touch your body without permission, sometimes in inappropriate places. Teach them not to invade someone’s personal space. Everyone has their own “space bubble”.
Like any other skill, social skills can be learned, and besides that, ‘being social’ or outgoing isn’t the end goal in itself. What is important, however, is that kids can form meaningful bonds with others, can empathize and interact with others appropriately, and have the skills to adapt in uncomfortable situations.