We all want to see our children flourishing socially, but social skills don’t come easily to everyone. Director of Talk Together Social Skills Groups & Speech Language Therapy, MEGAN LEWIS offers three simple tips for helping children develop these essential skills.
1. Find and then praise the social actions you want to see more of.
As a parent, it’s so easy to focus on behaviours that are challenging or triggering. Instead, focus on what you want to see more of: “I love that you asked him if he was ok when he fell”. All kids have lots of positive social moments each day – when we look for them.
2. Strengthen skills in understanding other people’s thoughts and perspectives, (also known as ‘Theory of Mind’ skills).
Research shows kids with strong ‘Theory of Mind’ skills have more friends. Why? People enjoy being around people who consider their thoughts and feelings.
Make things for other people (cards, cookies, gifts), and talk about what the other person likes and doesn’t like. Point out how it is different from them. “You love your dinosaur stickers, but Nana loves flowers. Should we use the flower stickers for her card? I think she would like that!”
3. Think out loud.
So many expected social skills rely on picking up on ‘rules’ that are unsaid (reading social cues). This is really hard for so many kids!
You can help by saying what you think in social situations to your kids. For example: “I told Aunty about my garden, and she started looking away a bit, which told me she wasn’t really listening. Maybe she had something on her mind, maybe she wasn’t interested. So I decided to ask her a question instead.”
Start modelling these actions for your children, and you may discover your own relationships get a boost too!
Talk Together provides specialist social skills groups and outdoor adventure therapy programmes for children 2-18 years of age throughout Canterbury, and online. Its multidisciplinary team is passionate about supporting kids to strengthen their social skills, and build confidence and resilience alongside finding their tribe! Check out more at talktogether.co.nz
Read another story on building better relationships The sparks of friendship.