Acting positively toward others, making friends and learning to get along are not abilities that children are born with; they have to be learned.
Acting positively toward others, making friends and learning to get along are not abilities that children are born with; they have to be learned. With your help and encouragement, your child can learn to deal with these challenges and in so doing will be equipped with an important skill for life.
Emily, 4 years old, loves playing at the park and taking part in the activities at her local family centre. “I encourage her to approach other children of her age and ask them if they’ll let her play with them,” says her dad, Steven. “I let her do this on her own while I watch from a distance. Most of the time things go well. But from time to time there’s a kid who refuses. When that happens I explain to her that sometimes children, just like grown-ups, prefer to be alone, and that she has to respect that.”
Every time Steven takes Emily to the park, every time he helps her to make friends or to calm down after getting upset, he is guiding his daughter in developing her social skills.
A child with good social skills is less likely to suffer from loneliness, anxiety or depression.
What exactly are social skills?
Social skills are attitudes and behaviours that allow children to make contact with others, get along well with peers, make friends, work in teams, and assert themselves.
Social skills fall into five broad categories:
1- Prosocial skills: the skills that enable us to connect with others and be pleasant to them, for example smiling, greeting, sharing, helping, complimenting and co-operating.
2- Expressing feelings: being able to identify and express our emotions and to recognize those of others.
3- Communication and language: talking to others, listening to them, asking questions, answering questions, making requests, etc.
4- Behavioural and emotional self-regulation: being able to wait one’s turn, taking no for an answer, coping with frustration, staying calm and adapting to different situations.
5- Conflict resolution: recognizing problems, using words to settle conflicts, identifying and suggesting solutions, negotiating and reaching compromises.
Social skills will serve your child throughout his life. They will help him to form positive relationships and to avoid conflicts. “Social skills are also an important factor in a child’s success at school. Socially adept children relate better to teachers, are less likely to be oppositional, and are able to adjust more easily to a range of situations,” explains France Capuano, professor in UQAM’s Department of Special Education and Training.