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How to Encourage Social Skills with your Children

Janie Hortman

Arts and Crafts at NurseryThe phrase “social skills” is how we describe interactions in relationships that can be verbal or nonverbal behaviors that communicate our thoughts and feelings. Verbal expressions can be a statement by the child of “I don’t care” or constant talking about a subject without asking the listener their opinion. Nonverbal expressions can be little eye contact or turning your back on the listener. Childhood is a sensitive time to create connections between caregivers and friends and develop healthy social skills.

What are some signs social skills may need to be encouraged?

These are a few signs that social skills may be more of a challenge to your child. If a few of these signs sound like familiar behaviors, it does not mean your child has a definite problem. These are just guidelines to seek additional help.

  • If child avoids eye contact, when culturally appropriate
  • If child avoids interact with others
  • Does not attach emotion to relationships, for example will use the adult for a functional purpose instead of a comforting purpose
  • Often appears to be withdrawn or in their “own world”
  • May seem emotionally detached in general
  • Little empathy towards others
  • Signs of extreme anxiety or sadness in difficult social situations
  • Has difficulty with transitions or changing topics
  • Has “black or white” thinking that appears rigid
  • Appears to have little friends, even if attempts are made to be social
  • Has trouble interacting with peers of the same age
  • Try’s to gain friends through fundamental ways that could be below developmental levels, such as asking a friend “Do you want to be friends?”
  • Have experienced bullying

What Can Caregivers do to help?

As a caregiver, you are a secure base for your child to connect yet feel comfortable to explore the world around them. Therefore, modeling healthy social skills to children is one of the best ways for them to learn. Here are a few skills to encourage at home.

  • Encourage eye contact and open body language during all conversations
  • Encourage child to ask peers questions during conversations and be flexible in subjects
  • Promote empathy and respect while talking
  • Seek extra help or support when needed

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