Socialization can be taught

Socialization can be taught
For your child, the process of socialization begins in the family. It is with you, her parents, and with brothers or sisters, that she first learns

For your child, the process of socialization begins in the family. It is with you, her parents, and with brothers or sisters, that she first learns how to behave with others. She continues to build on these skills in her relationships with others in her surroundings: grand-parents, aunts and uncles, cousins, friends, etc.

Learning social skills is part of your child’s overall development and affects her social, emotional, physical, cognitive and language development, too. “It’s all related,” says Julie Brousseau, psychologist at CHU Sainte-Justine. “For example, as a child gets better at talking, she finds it easier to form relationships with others and to express her feelings in words. As her reasoning and judgment skills improve, she finds it easier to identify solutions, resolve conflicts and even control her impulses.”

Don’t expect your child to become socially adept overnight! Social skills are acquired little by little, every day. It’s a gradual process.

However, social skills differ from other aspects of a child’s development in that they are not acquired as naturally. Your child needs more active involvement from you to help him become socially competent. “He needs you to guide him, because social behaviour is not something he is born with; it has to be taught,” France Capuano explains.

The earlier the better

As a parent, you play an important role. And this starts as soon as your child is born. For example, your baby’s first smile is often simply a reflex, but because you greet it and all subsequent smiles with such joy, your baby makes the link and begins to mirror your reactions. Gradually, smiling is no longer a reflex, it becomes a way for your baby to communicate and show that he is well. Through your positive reactions, you encourage continuation of this behaviour. Just like Annie has done for her daughters Camille, 3 years, and Emma, 10 months. “Emma always gives big smiles to the other children we meet when we go out,” she says.

The bond you create with your baby also helps to build your child’s social skills, according to Stéphanie Deslauriers, a psychoeducator who lectures on the subject. “If your little one feels loved, safe and secure, she will understand that the world is a safe place and will therefore be more open to others.”

As your child grows up, you can make the most of everyday situations to develop his social skills. It’s not complicated, says Elaine, mom to Raphael, 5; Leah, 2; and Ellie, 7 months. “Whenever we have visitors, I ask the two older ones to greet them with a smile and a friendly hello. I also tell them to look the person in the eyes when answering their questions.”

Here’s another example. You’re at the table at mealtime and your 5-year-old daughter interrupts her little brother. You could say to her: “Please let your brother speak, and after that it will be your turn.”