Babies are born into this world with just the basic skills required to ensure their survival, the rest of the skills need to be taught to them. Of all the developmental skills that the child is learning and developing, the most complex is the social skills. Children don’t automatically know how to behave, they need to be carefully taught how to develop their social skills. In many cases as the child grows older their social skills have to be adjusted accordingly. For e.g. it is not appropriate for a 6 yr. old to randomly eat things from other people’s plates at a party, we expect them to eat from their own plate and ask politely if they’d like more of something.
Developing appropriate social skills and etiquette needs practice and cannot be mastered in a day. Within the safe confines of the home, expose your children to a variety of social scenarios, teach ways to handle them and make sure you practise these instances periodically over time so that your child can remember what is expected of them. Rather than rolling the dice and hoping that your child doesn’t embarrass you in a social setting, let’s equip them with the information and skills they need to succeed.
Here are some effective strategies on how to develop your child’s social skills.
- Talk to your child: Let your child know in advance where you all are going, who will be there, for how long you will be there, giving them details that are age appropriate. You can mention some details about the event, what they need to wear, if there would be refreshments or maybe you would have to pack some to have along the journey. Remember to discuss how you expect them to behave, e.g. If you are going for a funeral, tell your child that is a quiet event, there will be prayers said and yes they might get bored, but they cannot run about and make noise, however they can carry some books to read by themselves while sitting at the side while mum and dad meet everyone.
- Identify Tricky situations: There are some situations that can bring out a myriad of emotions like going for a vacation, a theme park or even a birthday party. Your child will be bombarded with emotions, feeling, thoughts, sensations and will need help containing themselves. Take time to explain to your child what they might face, like a long travel when going on vacation, standing in lines at the theme park, waiting their turn for some cake or maybe not winning a game, bright lights, loud sounds, people looking and behaving differently then what we are used to and so on. Keeping your child informed will keep them at ease in new situations.
- Teach them some answers: It becomes very awkward for parents when at a party someone is talking to your child and your child doesn’t know how to respond and just has a blank expression. Simple expressions like saying “I’m fine, thank you” if someone asks “how are you?” or “hello, good evening” when visiting someone or, “thank you for having me, I had a lovely time” after a party or playdate. Have an evening of role playing, practise a variety of scenarios and responses with your child, you can even throw in some funny and awkward moments like someone continuously pulling your child’s cheeks, or standing too close to your child and talking to them, maybe someone telling them to push someone else for fun. Equip your child with the right responses to smoothly ease out of a situation.
- Be alert: Even with regular practice, things might be very different in real life situations. Your child might get confused, or nervous, maybe tired or feel overwhelmed. Children don’t have the patience or stamina to control themselves for extended periods of time so you might need to step in if you feel your child getting upset or angry. Finding a quiet spot and helping them calm down is the first step forward before talking about what happened and then help them find a solution. The reason could be as simple as your child being over stimulated or maybe they were just feeling hungry.
- Prepare for the worst: With children things can go smoothly and perfectly and yet the slightest things can affect them and can take a turn for the worst. This type of behaviour is normal in young children and is to be expected. Children are still in the learning phase and expecting them to behave perfectly at all times is unrealistic. Emotions play a big part in their lives, and being abstract in nature they will need time to learn about their emotions, how to manage them and finally internalise the appropriate forms of behaviour. The thing to remember is that this is not a reflection on you as a parent but just serves as a reminder that your child needs more practice sessions at home.
Giving real life experiences is a good way to improve your child’s social skills, make use of the strategies above to prepare them and then give them a real life situation for a chance to practise what they have learnt. Your child will need regular training and reminders till the expected behaviour comes naturally to them. Each child is unique and so also the way they understand and interpret a situation, with patience and guidance your child will get there eventually.
At EuroKids, the teachers and the curriculum is designed to assist your child in their various development skills. Social skills are taught by means of stories or puppets, or having an open group discussion wherein children are given scenarios and they have to share their thoughts on it. At school they are interacting with different individuals so it is an ideal situation for them to learn and practise under the watchful eye of the adults around. Click here to find a centre closest to you and enrol your child in a preschool that is dedicated to ensuring your child’s success.