Critical Social Skills for Kids and How to Develop Them

Critical Social Skills for Kids and How to Develop Them

Critical Social Skills for Kids and How to Develop Them

Your child is funny, smart, and comfortable socialising with adults but when it comes to making friends their age, they become shy and lose confidence, or maybe they struggle to read social cues and so socialising can be a challenge for them. You've been trying to encourage them but it's been tough and nothing seems to be working.

Don't worry, you're not the only one to experience this and it's not a lost cause; there are many ways you can help them develop the social skills they need to mix with other kids and make new friends.

In this blog, we're going to cover why social skills are important for kids, why some struggle, and the things you can or shouldn't do to help them improve.


What are social skills and why are they important?

Social skills are important because they help us communicate with other people in verbal, nonverbal, written, and visual ways. Verbal communication relates to the spoken language while nonverbal relates to our facial expressions, body language, and gestures.


Why social skills are important?

Many people underestimate the importance of having good social skills. After all, what's the big deal if we're a little awkward around others? The truth is, social skills are essential for our kids' success in life.

Kids who struggle with social skills often have difficulty making friends, holding conversations, and positively interacting with others but developing those skills will help them navigate tricky social situations as they get older.

Here's an example of the critical social skills they need to develop:

Active Listening

Active listening is our ability to listen attentively and communicate effectively. Kids who can focus on what a teacher is saying and take note of important points are more likely to do well in class, but outside of the school environment, this enables them to build better relationships.

Cooperation and Collaboration

This is our ability to work alongside others to accomplish a task or activity.

Empathy

Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another person, it's often described as putting yourself in someone else's shoes.

Teaching your children empathy will help them feel more connected to others and build deeper relationships which in turn creates a feeling of support and positive reinforcement. Kids who have close friends are also more likely to do well in school.


Why do some kids struggle with social skills

There are two main reasons why some kids struggle with social skills.

  1. They are shy and lack the confidence to jump into a conversation and interact because they don't want to be rejected.
  2. They struggle to read social cues and need to have those skills developed

Whether they fall into that first scenario or the second may be down to several reasons, that could be due to a disability or medical condition, such as autism spectrum disorder, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), or anxiety. It could also be because they're introverted or shy. Additionally, some kids have experienced bullying or trauma, which can make it difficult to interact with others.

Whatever the reason, it's important to identify why they are struggling because, once you know the root of the problem, you can start to work on developing those skills.


8 ways to teach kids who struggle to read social cues

1. Reading body language

Play a game with them where you have them guess how you are feeling using your body language and pair that with my feelings and emotions flashcards. This will help kids identify how others are feeling by using a visual cue, you can even have played out different ways your child can respond depending on how others are feeling.

2. Think it or Say it

Kids who struggle to read social cues sometimes say things that are inappropriate for certain social situations. A great way to teach them to deal with this is by playing a game of 'think it or say it' - Here you come up with different scenarios and you say 'think it or say it'. This will help them to understand not everything they think should be said out loud.

3. Understand Personal Space

Use hula hoops in the house so that kids who don't understand personal space know how sometimes kids don't like it when you come into their 'bubble' and so hula hoops will give them an idea of how close they can get to people without them feeling uncomfortable.

4. Practice starting and holding conversations

Starting a conversation can be difficult, especially if you don’t know what to say. Help your child practice starting conversations by coming up with some topics he or she can talk about with others.

A great way for them to develop this is to take a ball, ask them a question and have them answer it, then throw the ball to them and have them do the same. This will teach them the flow of a conversation going back and forth, show them how to be engaged with someone else and practice the art of active listening and then responding.

5. Encourage your child to make eye contact

One of the most important social skills is making eye contact. When we make eye contact with others, it shows that we are interested in what they have to say and that we are paying attention. Help your child practice making eye contact by asking him or her to look at you while you are talking.

6. Reward your child for using social skills

When you see your child using social skills, praise him or her! This will encourage your child to continue using the skills.

Pro tip - Create a reward chart where you add stickers when they exercise their social skills, and after a certain amount of stickers they get a treat. This will encourage them to practice their social skills more by using positive reinforcement.

7. Seek professional help

If you've tried all of these tips and your child is still struggling, it may be time to seek professional help. A therapist can help them to work on their social skills, enrol them in a social skills group where they can practice in a safe environment, or develop a plan to overcome their shyness.

8. Have patience

Social skills take time to develop, but they are learned skills so it can take time but your child can learn. So, it's important to have patience with your child. Keep at it and they will eventually get there!

8 ways for shy kids to improve social skills

1. Join a club or group that shares their interest.

This can be anything from going to the park and playing with other kids to joining a club or sport. When they're doing something they love, it will be easier for them to open up and talk to others.

Pro tip - If they are going somewhere that has a lot of people, get there early and introduce them to other kids... this will allow them to begin interacting in a less intimidating environment and become comfortable before kids begin to arrive

2. Practice, Practice, Practice

Encourage them to start small by saying things like "hi" or "thank you". Once they get used to talking to people, they can gradually start practising longer conversations. When they're feeling confident, encourage them to invite a friend over or go on playdates.

3. Role Play

This can be done at home with a parent or sibling. Help them to come up with different social scenarios, such as meeting someone new or going to a birthday party. Then, have them practice what they would say and how they would act in each situation. This will help them to be prepared for real-life social situations.

Pro tip -

Use puppets or teddies to make it more fun as if they are part of these real-life situations.

4. Be a good role model

As a parent, you can set a good example by being friendly and interacting with other people yourself. When you're out in public, talk to the cashier, strike up a conversation with someone in line, or say hi to your neighbour. This will show your child that it's okay.

  1. Play games that require social interaction

Playing games is a great way to bond with your child while also teaching them social skills. Games that require taking turns, sharing, and communication are perfect for this. Monopoly, Jenga, and charades are all great options.

6. Encourage them to talk about their feelings

When kids bottle up their emotions, it can lead to social anxiety. So, it's important to encourage your child to talk about their feelings. This can be done by asking them how their day was or what made them happy or sad. You can also help them to identify and label their emotions.

7. Seek professional help

If you've tried all of these tips and your child is still struggling, it may be time to seek professional help. A therapist can help them to work on their social skills and develop a plan to overcome their shyness.

8. Have patience

Social skills take time to develop, but they are learned skills so it can take time but your child can learn. So, it's important to have patience with your child. Keep at it and they will eventually get there!




What not to do

There are a few things you should avoid doing when it comes to social skills. Here are four of them:

1. Don’t force your child into social situations

If your child is shy or doesn’t like being around other people, don’t force him or her into social situations. This will only make the situation worse and your child will likely end up feeling uncomfortable and anxious.

2. Don’t compare your child to others

Every child is different and develops at his or her own pace. So, don’t compare your child to other children when it comes to social skills. This will only make your child feel bad about himself or herself.

3. Don’t criticise your child

If your child makes a mistake when it comes to social skills, don’t criticise him or her. This will only make your child feel worse and hinder his or her ability to improve.

4. Don’t give up

Social skills take time to develop, so don’t give up if your child is struggling. Keep at it and he or she will eventually get there!

Conclusion

It's important to have patience when it comes to your child's social skills. Every child develops at their own pace, so don't compare them to other children. If your child is struggling, don't give up - keep trying different techniques until you find what works for them. And most importantly, always praise your child when they use their social skills; this will only encourage them to do it more.

Has something worked for you? Let us know in the comment section below.


FAQs

Q: What is the definition of social skills?

A: Social skills are the skills we use to interact with others. This can include verbal and nonverbal communication, such as body language, facial expressions, and eye contact. It also includes things like turn-taking, sharing, and listening.

Q: Why are social skills important?

A: Social skills are important because they help us to interact with others. They allow us to build relationships, communicate our needs and resolve conflicts.

Q: Why do some kids struggle with social skills?

A: Some kids struggle with social skills for a variety of reasons. This can include things like being shy, having a disability, or being on the autism spectrum.

Q: What are some ways kids can improve their social skills?

A: There are a few ways kids can improve their social skills. This can include things like attending a social skills group, playing social games, or role-playing different situations.

Q: What should you not do when it comes to social skills?

A: There are a few things you should avoid doing when it comes to social skills. This can include things like forcing your child into social situations, comparing your child to others, or giving up too easily.