7 Important Social Skills for Kids
During their early years, there are different categories of skills children must acquire in order to grow into well-functioning individuals, and one of such is social skills.
Social skills are of several types; each of them are learned differently; and the best time to start teaching them is at infancy because this is when synapses are created, connections are made, and the brain is very receptive to external input.
So in this post we would like to share with you, seven of the most critical social skills children should develop, including tips on how to teach them to your kids.
1. Effective Communication
Your kids need to learn two-way communication which is what happens when individuals exchange verbal or non-verbal communication back and forth, as well as self-advocacy which is what happens when one communicates their needs, interests or views.
You can help your child learn two-way communication by:
- talking to them as much as possible, even when they’re not yet able to respond with words;
- making eye contact appropriately; and
- using non-verbal forms of communication in the right situations.
Being able to communicate their needs results to less frustration for your child, and even for you. To teach them self-advocacy, you can try:
- using a communication board or pictures;
- learning Baby Sign Language and teaching it to your baby; and
- practicing sounds and simple words with them.
2. Active Listening
Significant focus is required to properly interpret and absorb information, and when one really focuses or pays attention when being spoken to, they’re actively listening.
This important skill doesn’t just make children more socially fit, but can also enhance their receptive language skills, and their two-way communication ability.
Here are some tips on helping your older kids develop active listening skills:
- Always actively listen to them yourself to give the impression that paying attention when being spoken to is the right thing to do
- Let them know you’ll ask them questions later before reading to them
- Tell them a story only on the condition that they’ll comment on it afterwards
- Reward active listening sometimes to encourage more of it
3. Following Directions
The ability to follow directions is intimately related to the ability to listen actively, as one cannot properly carry out instructions they did not really hear and understand in the first place.
Kids naturally find it easier to follow directions in familiar situations – such as at home with their parents – unlike when they’re in school for example; so if they develop this vital skill at home they’ll have an easier time in school.
You can promote your kids’ ability to follow directions by
- giving them one direction at a time, as multi-step directions are harder for children to follow;
- giving clear instructions, and in a gentle, yet firm manner;
- sometimes telling them to repeat your instructions before they start carrying them out; and
- rewarding them when they succeed in executing an instruction accurately.
Toddlers, preschoolers and kindergartners find it harder to share since at these stages they’re naturally more focused on their needs, and do not yet realise the benefits of sharing.
The ability to share is indeed a critical social skill as it helps kids build, maintain and advance friendships. Sharing is also a good way of showing appreciation.
So here are a few ways to help your children develop this skill:
- Encourage them to share, but try not to force it
- Always show approval when they, for example, share their snack with a sibling
- Lead by example – let them also see you sharin
- Don’t compel them to share things that are special to them, like their favourite toy(s); knowing that what they find special is respected and kept separate, they may be more willing to share other things
Empathy can simply be described as the ability to understand and share the feelings of another person.
This skill starts to develop when a child begins to recognise and appreciate the differences and similarities between their lives and that of others they come in contact with, and you can support its development in your kid by
- being empathetic towards them (validating or acknowledging their emotions, whether positive or negative); and
- showing other people empathy in a setting where your kid will notice or observe
These are the easiest ways to teach empathy because when they always see your genuine displays of empathy towards themselves and other people, your children will learn to show empathy, too.
Collaboration or cooperation as a social skill is similar to sharing, but has more to do with sharing intangible things such as ideas and effort.
Children need to develop this social skill which makes them able to work in a group, exchange ideas with others, and put in effort towards achieving a common goal. One cannot be a good team player without knowing how to cooperate and collaborate.
The following are some ways to encourage this skill:
- Always assign age-appropriate house chores to your children as a group
- Work on these house chores with them sometimes to show them you’re also able to cooperate and collaborate
- Present a simple problem and let your kids work as a group to solve it, with each child giving an idea
- Reward your children appropriately when they achieve a feat through cooperation and collaboration
7. Establishing and Respecting Boundaries
When we talk of boundaries here, we mean both physical and emotional ones.
Kids should be taught to set boundaries for themselves, for example by refusing displays of affection they’re not comfortable with.
Similarly, they should learn to respect boundaries, and be made to realise that while family members will naturally be much more accommodating to them, not everyone will be receptive to their chatter, endless questions, hugs, etc., in external social situations.
To help your child understand the concept of boundaries
- explain that it’s important for them not just to determine what they’re not okay with in their interactions with other people, but to also make such (boundaries) known;
- assure them it’s okay to say ‘no’ to certain requests, and to shows of affection;
- tell them it’s good to try and identify other people’s boundaries as well; and
- teach them to always ask for permission before using someone else’s property, for example playing with their sibling’s toy.