Social skills are a vital component of learning and growth for every child. In addition to recent studies that indicate good social skills make a better leader, and companies like Google searching for these qualities in employees, the need for social interaction and support is in our human nature, and it has a big impact on our mental health, no matter our age.
There is often a misconception about what social skills entail. Some believe it’s simply manners, making jokes or fitting in. However, social skills actually encompass all types of communication and interaction, including relationship-building, empathy, listening, conflict-resolution, self-awareness, self-management, responsible decision-making and more.
The Benefits of Building Children’s Social Skills
- Building better social skills yields stronger friendships and relationships of all kinds.
- It enables one to communicate with others more effectively, both verbally and non-verbally.
- Self-awareness is improved, gaining a better understanding of our emotions, feelings, actions and needs.
- Social skills allow for the ability to advocate for oneself, expressing our needs to others.
- They help us cooperate and work well with a partner, team or group.
- All of the above can yield improved mental health, happiness and satisfaction, not to mention increased success during all phases of life.
How to Help Build Your Child’s Social Skills
- Give them the opportunity to do so—basic things like playing games with friends, playing outside or riding bikes with neighbors. The more we do something, the better we get at it, so creating opportunities for socializing—whatever that might mean for your child—is important.
- Create unstructured opportunities. Children have many opportunities for structured socializing through school and other scheduled activities, but unstructured socialization is also valuable. They need time and autonomy to interact on their own, without being led or facilitated.
- Model good social skills for your child. Kids pay attention to what we’re doing and emulate it. If we’re working well with others, listening, showing empathy and advocating for our needs, it will help them learn to do the same.
- Encourage opportunities that are developmentally appropriate, such as allowing them to solve their own conflicts rather than stepping in or speak up for themselves instead of doing it for them. Be aware of where your child is at and meet them there. Don’t push too hard, but gently encourage growth and independence.
- Recognize that having less opportunity for socializing can create social anxiety or stress, and it can make it more challenging to engage and interact. The saying goes, “if we don’t use it, we lose it,” and at times, this may apply to social skills.
At Ethos Wellness, we offer elementary and middle school psychoeducation groups to support social skill-building, as well as individual therapy for those who could use additional support. Learn more about these skill-building opportunities here, or contact our client care team confidentially.