Improving Kids` Social Skills

May 21, 2015
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Many parents worry over their child’s social life, or, more accurately, the potential lack thereof. Developing friendships and social skills are so important in early years and it’s often a prominent focus in daycare and primary school. Every kid is going to socialize differently: depending on whether or not they have siblings, how vocal they are, how naturally extroverted they are, etc. Naturally, kids with siblings have an advantage, most are forced to learn how to share and play in pairs or small groups. Many parents even notice a difference in the social patterns of their first children compared to those that follow. Younger children are more accustomed to having toys taken and attention shared, while their older siblings often throw fits, as they’re still adjusting to a new sibling in the picture. For some “only children”, the first time they’re not the center of attention may be at daycare.

Naturally, most experts advise parents to find playmates for their children before school, whether it’s cousins or nearby neighbors. Other parents are often eager for their children to socialize as well, as long as the environment is kept clean, safe and supervised, and parents maintain communication. Lucky parents encourage friendships between their children and the children of their friends, so parents can chat over coffee while babies babble away.

Socializing is an ongoing process, and difficult for many kids. Parents only need to remember their own playground bullies to want to homeschool their kids and shower them with love and affection. Unfortunately, despite the inevitable bumps and tears, social skills are indispensable. Often, a child develops their social skills away from their parents, especially once they’re enrolled in school, summer camps and sports teams. Talk openly and frequently with your kids, their teachers, coaches, counselors, and the parents of their friends. Hopefully, your child will come to you if they’re struggling socially, but some bullied or lonely kids have a tendency to hide their troubles, in which case it’s best to talk to someone who may be observing them in social situations more often than you are.

One big difference that you can make as a parent is to encourage the interests that naturally emerge in your child. Some parents find this hard; fathers want to enroll sons in hockey, when sons just want to paint. Let them paint! First, if a child has a natural inclination towards something, it’s more likely to flourish as a skill, even if they’re not a naturally talented artist, if they take lessons and enjoy practicing, they’ll improve more rapidly than if they’re forced to practice. If a boy doesn’t like hockey, he won’t want to practice, he likely won’t do as well as the other boys, and frankly, being the weak link on a team isn’t an easy way to make friends. Parents often make the mistake of judging hobbies and the friends that may come with it, but if the ultimate goal is a social, happy kid, then those judgments need to go by the wayside.

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