When we said that we were homeschooling our eldest Shawna about 10 years ago, the concern was her social skills. There is the pre-conceived notion that homeschooled children are kept in the home and therefore do not have enough people skills to deal with the world. But let’s face it, homeschooled or not, children need guidance in order to improve their social skills. Let’s look at some ways.
How Social Skills Are Developed
Even before they could talk, your little ones can already start to pick up a few social skills. Eye-to-eye contact, smiling, crying — these are some social skills they will already develop early on in their life.
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And as your children grow older, they will meet new people, discover new emotions, and be involved in more complex situations. They need to learn and develop more social skills that will help them navigate through these new encounters.
How to Help Your Kids
While children are naturally more sociable than adults, there are a few ways you can help your children improve their social skills. These can also sharpen your parenting skills at the same time. Here are some:
Encourage Social Play
Play is an important aspect of childhood. There are various skills to be learned when playing, such as fine motor skills when building tower blocks or gross motor skills when climbing monkey bars.
And when you encourage your child to play with other kids, you also help them enhance other social skills such as communication, conflict resolution, and empathy.
Social play also promotes friendships and improves your child’s confidence and self-esteem.
Feed Their Curiosity
Children are naturally curious about the world. They can have many questions about many different things, like animals, food, and planets. This is completely normal — even expected — for them.
As parents, you are encouraged to satisfy this curiosity with the same level of enthusiasm. Not only will this build their self-esteem, but it will also help them explore their interests which they can share with their playmates.
Teach Them Empathy
Empathy means knowing how to listen, being sensitive to others’ feelings, and responding appropriately in particular situations. When children know how to empathize with others, it will be easier for them to create stronger, positive bonds with other people.
Exercise their empathy by creating scenarios and asking them questions such as “How would you feel if you were in their position?” or “What can you do to help this person?”
Communicate with Them
Help improve your child’s communication skills by actively engaging them in conversations. This way, you help them pick up appropriate responses, greetings, and other verbal expressions they can use in everyday interactions. It helps them navigate difficult situations, express their needs, and overcome their shyness.
Communication is a vital part of developing social skills, and children who know how to communicate have better chances at creating social bonds with other people.
Help Them Express Their Emotions
Children’s emotions are less complex than those of adults, but it does not mean that they can always fully express them. By learning how to express their emotions, your little ones can set boundaries, deal with mishaps, and know more about themselves.
Help them express their emotions by asking them questions that explore their feelings towards a particular subject or object. It is also a good practice to help your children name their feelings — happy, sad, disappointed, guilty.
By doing so, you help them recognize their own feelings as well as others. As a result, this will help them develop their empathy.
Teach Them About Consent
Teach your child about the concept of consent by asking them questions like “Is it okay if I hug you?” or “Would you like to play with your friend?”
Your child should know that they have control over themselves and cannot be forced into doing something they are not comfortable with. They can choose to say no when they feel doing so, and it’s important to tell them this.
Let Them Explore the World
As they say, the experience is the best teacher. There are amazing things to be learned when you let your young ones interact with different people, try out new things, and experience adventures.
Let them make mistakes and help them realize the right thing to do. They will learn how to apologize, forgive, and look out for themselves, and these are things that will help them face the bigger world as they grow older.
Know Their Limits
Finally, as parents, you need to know your child’s limits. While every parent’s goal is for their child to create positive relationships with others, every child is unique.
Some children are naturally outgoing, and you can expect them to enjoy meeting new people and being around a large group of people.
On the other hand, children who are introverts will probably be comfortable around a smaller circle. And this is okay. Understand that they have social limits and never force them into doing something they are not comfortable with.
Proper Socialization Skills is Valuable
Learning how to socialize with others is a valuable skill for children. It will teach them consent, empathy, and communication. And as parents, it is our responsibility to support our child’s social development by helping them navigate through new, more complex situations.
Whether homeschooling or in traditional schools, children need guidance on proper social skills.