10 Essential Social Skills for Kids You Can Teach at Home
Have you ever wondered how to teach social skills to your child?
Parenting comes with lots of responsibilities. For it, you must develop a series of skills in your child. Social skills are among them. But somehow, parents tend to overlook them. Keep reading to learn why social skills are so important and the benefits of developing them at an early age.
Also, I’m introducing 10 essential social skills and providing easy strategies to develop them at home.
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What Are Social Skills?
Also known as interpersonal skills or people skills, social skills are “tools we use to communicate, build relationships, and interact with others.”
We use them every day without even thinking about them.
For some people, social skills come naturally. They’re a challenge for others. The good thing is that you can learn and develop them. Here’s another definition of social skills that I like: “social skills are the ways people control their words and actions to get along better with others.”
Learning to control our words and actions can help us have better relationships in every aspect of life—family, school, or work.
Why Are Social Skills So Important?
Among other things, because we use them all the time, and because they can help us to get closer to the most important people in our lives. In other words, they’re “crucial in making and keeping friends.”
Nevertheless, social skills also play an important role in your child’s future success.
So much so that some experts consider that “teaching children good social skills is as important as teaching math and reading.”
Modern jobs value skills such as leadership, empathy, or being good at team working.
Benefits of Developing Social Skills in Children
Children develop their social skills in different environments. They start at home and then usually continue their development at school or even with a therapist.
Here are some of the benefits of teaching positive social skills to your child:
- They’re able to make friends
- They can adapt to different situations and cultures
- They’re better communicators
- Better listeners
- They’re able to build better relationships
- Increased happiness
- Better career prospects
- Reduced stress
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Consequences of Failing to Develop Social Skills in Children
On the other hand, when children fail to develop their social skills properly, they may have to deal with challenges such as:
- Signs of depression and anxiety
- Poor academic performance
- More stress
- Health problems
- Problematic relationships
10 Essential Social Skills to Teach Your Kids at Home
If you want to improve your child’s social skills and emotional development, here are 10 essential social skills that they can practice at home:
1. Expressing emotions
Crying out loud or throwing a tantrum are ways of expressing an emotion, and kids know how to do that all too well.
But remember what I said above about controlling “words and actions.” The goal must be to teach your child to express their emotions in a controlled way. To do that, strengthening their emotional vocabulary can be of great help.
Additionally, children’s literature is an excellent way “to help your child explore different emotions,” learn about them and deal with them. However, if you want your child to express their emotions in a controlled way, you must do exactly that.
In other words: teach by example.
Show them how to talk about their emotions by talking about your own emotions.
Considered one of the main survival skills, listening is a prerequisite to developing other important social skills such as following directions, empathy, and patience.
As a parent and teacher, I know how hard it is for children to pay attention and listen to what other people tell them. Expressing themselves and listening to others are the two sides of healthy communication.
You can practice this skill at home. Read books to your children and then ask them for details about the story. That simple activity helps them focus.
Soon you’ll see kids listening to each other. I bet you want to see that! It’s heartwarming.
In your child’s development, few skills are more important to learn than collaborating. I mentioned before how team working is a well-valued skill in professional life. However, collaborating is about much more than that.
It’s also about taking care of your community and becoming a good citizen.
Collaborating and working as a team puts your child in a position where they must “express their ideas and listen to the ideas of others.” Do you see how every social skill is connected to the previous ones?
Ask your child to help you clean up the dining table or tell them to make their bed in the mornings. You can also ask them to help with house chores.
These activities will teach them the importance of collaboration and how easy it is to do good for others.
4. Following Directions
Teaching your child to follow directions is critical for your parenting efforts and a vital social skill your child must have. They’ll need to follow directions at school and later at work.
Moreover, following directions is a social skill that helps learn and develop skills like adding or programming.
To help them with this, you can play games at home such as Simon Says and Stop, Wait, Go; sing and dance the Hokey Pokey, and give them one to two-step directions.
What? Losing isn’t a skill, right?
If you’re a parent, you know what I’m talking about. It’s about learning to lose, control their emotions, and show sportsmanship. Why is this so important? Well, your child won’t always be the winner.
So, they need to learn how to manage their frustrations. They must know that they’re not the center of the universe.
I love letting my daughters win in every game we play. It doesn’t matter if it’s a memory game, uno, or football. I enjoy watching them when they win. But sometimes, they should lose.
This way, they’ll learn to deal with the emotions of losing.
One of my favorite books is “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee. At one point in the novel, you can find this beautiful quote by one of my all-time preferred characters, Atticus Finch:
“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view – until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”
That’s the essence of empathy, to see things from someone else’s perspective. However, kids have a hard time grasping the concept of empathy. In a child’s mind, everything is about themselves, and the world revolves around them. That’s why it’s so hard for them to put themselves in other people’s shoes.
To develop empathy in your child, try telling them about that time you had to show empathy to understand someone else’s pain or discomfort.
Empathy is a complex skill. Be patient.
Sharing is a challenging task to develop in young children.
Preschool teachers often struggle to make kids understand the importance of sharing the toys and materials they use in the classroom. This happens because kids of that age “are more focused on their needs and desires than the needs and desires of others.” This is just normal. However, just because it’s normal doesn’t mean it’s right.
From an early age, motivate your child to share their toys with their siblings, cousins, or friends.
Explain why it’s important to share and make sure to remind them of the times other kids share their toys with them. That’s when they’ll get the positive side of sharing. The goal is for them to realize that “If I share my things, others will share with me theirs too.”
Let’s be honest here, practicing patience is difficult even for adults.
I’m an elementary teacher, and the worst thing I can tell my students is to wait a minute. It’s like I’m asking them to eat broccoli or make their homework. They just hate waiting!
However, waiting is a recurrent element of life. So it’s a good idea to develop their patience.
One of the best ways to build on that patience with your child is to practice taking turns at home. This applies to anything you can think of: choosing a restaurant, which board game to play, etc.
They’ll develop patience whenever it isn’t their turn to choose.
9. Respecting Personal Space
This is a subtle social skill that most times isn’t even discussed when raising children.
For some people, it may seem like a natural thing to do: to leave enough space for the other person to move at will and feel comfortable. For kids, however, this concept may seem weird at first.
You have to understand that children are used to hugging and being hugged. At home, that’s a normal thing to do, and that’s why the personal space inside a family gets considerably reduced.
My students show me that enthusiasm pretty much every day. They hug me, draw on my face with paint, or grab my glasses.
I don’t get mad. I know that’s what they do at home, and they see me as a trusted person with whom they can behave like they do with their relatives. Nonetheless, we must prepare kids for the outside world, and respecting people’s personal space is an essential social skill.
To help your child tell them phrases meant to show respect for people’s personal space. “Knock on closed doors” or “Keep your hands to yourself” are to start.
Considered a problem-solving skill, apologizing is a tricky skill that’s hard to teach and master.
Giving a sincere apology is a hard thing to do not only for children but also for adults. First, you must learn to swallow your pride and accept your mistakes, and that’s not an easy thing to do.
That’s why I consider learning to apologize for one of the milestones of parenting. If a child can genuinely apologize, it is because they can control their emotions, listen to others, and show empathy. It’s a sign of maturity.
Emphasize that they must apologize every time there’s a conflict and that apologies must be sincere.
Again, lead by example, and show them how to do it. You’ll make it easier for them to learn this difficult skill.
Develop Your Child Social Skills at Home and Prepare Them for Real Life
Social skills are crucial tools in life. Period.
They can help your child make more friends and have better academic results—these are a few benefits of developing them.
Try some of the abovementioned strategies, and focus on developing these 10 essential social skills. It’s not hard to do, and your child will greatly benefit from it.
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