Ways to Nurture Your Child’s Social Skills
Children face all sorts of challenges the moment they open their eyes. As they grow up, some might face difficulties navigating a conversation and making friends. Stemmed from being a natural introvert, lack of confidence or simply have difficulty developing the necessary social skills, these kids can find everyday situations uncomfortable. Given the past two years of being locked indoors from COVID-19, away from interacting with others, this could have also contributed to a child’s social dilemma. Nevertheless, worry not because these social skills can be nurtured over time with encouragement from parents. We are aware that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution, but we have gathered some ideas to help your child make friends.
1. Encourage Their Interests
Playing and interacting with other children will come more naturally when said child is doing something they are genuinely interested in. Celebrate and harness your children’s interest in their favourite sport, an instrument they like or being part of a club they're interested in, as a stepping stone towards developing social skills. When a child is surrounded by like-minded people of his or her age, that will keep them at ease and eventually be able to socialise. This will build a social skills foundation for when communicating with other kids with varying interests.
2. Ask Questions
For most people, having a conversation is easy. However, kids who get nervous or shy can struggle with carrying on a conversation. When communication lags, you can teach your children to ask questions in order to power through. Asking questions about others also teaches kids that it’s a method to learn about others and a form of connection. Encourage your child to ask questions that can't be answered with just a yes or no.
3. Let's Pretend
Any time a child plays pretend games, they are actively practising skills needed for life. Through play, children learn what it’s like to be in someone else’s shoes. Have your child pretend to be the person they have difficulty talking to or getting along with for insight to the person or how your child perceives this particular person. Through the ‘play’, you can suggest ways to talk more effectively with the individual. Supplement the talk with positive body language like smiling and making eye contact.
4. Teach Empathy
Children are hard-wired for empathy, but like any of our very human qualities, it needs to be gently brought to life. Empathy equips kids with what they need to establish and maintain a strong, healthy relationship with others. As parents, you can teach empathy by drawing up situations with your child, talk to them about feelings and also use pretend play. Part of teaching empathy is to help children learn how to actively listen to others. This means consciously focussing on what the speaker is saying.
5. Learn Your Child's Limits
Here’s a fact to remember — some children are more sociable while others can be shy and introverted, and that’s okay. While encouraging and teaching your introverted child to socialise, it’s vital to know your kid’s limits and not push them past that. Some children thrive in large settings, while others find it comfortable when in smaller groups. Younger children and those with special needs may only feel comfortable socialising for a limited period of time.
6. Lead By Example
Children are pretty observant and mimic what you do. With that said, it’s important to lead by example and be consciously aware of how you interact with others when your child is watching. You can actively listen to your friends or even your partner to exhibit listening skills and portray genuine empathy for friends and family in your life or as simple as saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ to help them learn by example. It’s also noteworthy that these social skills will develop over time.