Success in personal and professional adult relationships largely depends on social skills that start developing in early childhood. Help your kids get a head start by focusing on these five areas of social development.
Being able to see a situation from a different perspective is difficult for kids, and they often need to be reminded that their actions affect the feelings of others. Studies have shown that children are more likely to show empathy when their own emotional needs are being met, to while asking kids to think of the feelings of others, don’t neglect their feelings. Encouraging kids to find common ground with others is another way to encourage empathy. It becomes easier for them to imagine how someone else feels if they know that the other person is a lot like them.
Sharing is fundamental to the functioning of society and is a skill that needs to be taught. Children are not born with the desire to share their toys and need to be shown the benefits of sharing repeatedly before they begin to catch on. Explain to kids that if they share their toys and snacks with others, they can both enjoy them and ultimately have more fun together. Don’t force sharing on children, and keep your expectations age-appropriate. Even at the age of five, children will still share selectively, keeping some prized possessions to themselves, and that is perfectly fine.
Ask any teacher or boss what the top five most important skills are in a student or an employee, and they will likely include listening in their list. Being able to stop your inner monolog and listen to someone else, whether they are giving you directions or telling you a story, is a critical part of social interaction. Help your child learn to listen by talking to them in a way that makes it easy. Get down on their level, get their attention before you start to speak, and communicate in a positive and firm way.
Teaching kids some basic conflict resolution skills like communicating needs and simple negotiation can help them a great deal in school and life. Resolving disputes between parties is a field of study all on its own, and if you are interested in this you may want to consider earning a degree in social work from a school like ACU. There are many social work programs available. Case Western's social work degree program is fully online, making it convenient for those that work from home to take classes when it is convenient to do so.
Kids need to learn the give and take required for everyday interactions. Whether it be taking turns on the monkey bars at the playground or waiting to speak in class, daily life presents plenty of opportunities to talk about this important lesson. Taking turns doesn’t come naturally, and is a social skill that needs to be taught through adults setting a good example as well as direct intervention by adults during playtime conflicts.
Choose one or two social skills to focus on at a time with your kids, and be positive and persistent. With consistent effort on your part, you can help your children develop the social skills they need to be successful later in life.