Social interactions play a huge part in a child’s everyday life. Not only do they speak with you and the rest of their family, but they also have to cooperate with their classmates and teachers. The more positive interactions they have, the more likely they will perform well at school. This will in turn carry over into their personal life. If you want to help your child with their social skills from a young age, I’m sharing some great advice from an independent school in Oxford along with my own experience as an actor and performance coach. Hopefully, this can help even if you yourself find social interaction awkward at times.
SET A GOOD EXAMPLE
Children learn a lot by observing the behaviour of those around them. With this in mind, it’s important that your child witnesses you having healthy, respectful conversations with others. Don’t interrupt people when they’re talking. This will show your child that we respect others even if we don’t agree with their opinions. They learn that it is rude to interrupt. Instead, show them that listening is just as important as talking when having a conversation.
Practise conversation starters with your child, as this is often the trickiest part of social interaction. Some children are shy and for some it comes natural. Do not force your child to be something they are not. You can, however, teach them that compliments and questions work well. As an example “I love your shoes, where did you get them from?” or “What did you do this weekend?” is an easy way to open a conversation.
WHY BODY LANGUAGE IS IMPORTANT WHEN DEVELOPING SOCIAL SKILLS
You should also teach them about body language. Most often actions speak louder than words, and they should know how to respond to people in certain situations. For instance, if their friend is crying, they could offer them a tissue or a hug. Understanding body language and facial expressions will help your child become better at reading people, as well as expressing their own emotions. If you cross your arms and avoid eye contact you signal to the person you are talking to that you don’t trust them. Kids are often very aware of their surroundings and especially how their parents and carers act so they will pick up on this. If you are unsure of the person you ar communicating with this can be a good thing to do. Yet, if you want to show your child that this is a friendly and trustworthy person you want open up your body, relax your arms or actively use them to gesture. Smile more and you instantly show your little one that this other person is okay.
ALLOW THEM TO ENGAGE WITH OTHERS ON A REGULAR BASIS
The best thing you can do to support your child with their social skills is to allow them to experience social interactions on a regular basis. Obviously, this past year has made this tricky and while we were in lockdown it was even harder. I can see the effects of this in Orsino who is wary of strangers. They need to become familiar with meeting new people and chatting in group situations, as these are things they will have to do throughout their lives. Luckily school is generally very good at encouraging this. The more often this happens to them while they’re young, the easier it will feel as they grow up, especially when you’re not there to support them. How do you support your child with developing their social skills?