You’ve probably heard this before, but we are saying it again: humans are social creatures. Most of us thrive off communicating with our friends and family and sharing our interests with each other. That’s why it’s important for children to learn how to socialise at an early age.
This is especially so if your kids have been affected by home-based learning during the pandemic (or maybe even started school during it). Your kids will have had lesser chances to meet their peers face-to-face and missed out on chances for them to really develop a social circle in school.
In a survey conducted involving 3582 parents, 86% said that their children were missing social interaction in their lives during school lockdowns.
With socialising being such an important skill, it’s always good as parents to encourage children to mix with others. In fact, this research shows that socialisation has a large impact on children’s lives – including shaping their future career choices.
So, you might be wondering: how can I help my child have better social skills? Keep reading to find out.
If your kids are extra conscious of themselves, roleplaying with them is a good option. This research condenses the importance of roleplaying, including simplifying events by putting children in an imaginary setting and helping them control their emotional expression.
Come up with potential everyday scenarios and act them out with your children. These can range from friendly situations to those where your kids might tend to lose their cool. Run through the act as many times as needed and gently urge your kids by giving them pointers. Here are our favourite tips for little ones:
Everyone is a potential friend
Be the first to say hello / say hello back
Remember to share
Don’t say anything rude
Try to make the roleplay as fun as possible – children learn well through play. It keeps them engaged and helps them to focus on the task at hand.
Bring them out to play with other kids
Practising is good and all, but nothing gets the job done better than experiencing it in real life. Bring your kids to the nearest playground during the evenings and let them run around (with their masks!) with other kids. This is especially good for those who haven’t entered primary school / aren’t attending preschool.
If your little ones are having some trouble, you can try talking to the other parents and asking if you could introduce your children to theirs. There’s no shame in giving your kids that extra push they need.
Arrange playdates at your house
On that note, you can always invite your childrens’ friends (especially new ones) to your house for a playdate. If these playdates become a regular thing, then even better!
Through play dates, children learn how to share toys, talk with each other, learn to wait, and more. These are social skills that will help your kids develop good rapport with their peers. Now, why make the playdates a regular thing? This study highlights that routines contribute to fostering relationships in children.
Routines help children identify and learn patterns for future social interaction. They will learn what is expected of them and through repetition, it can slowly become habits.
Set small social goals
If socialising is too scary for your kids, setting small goals can help them break down the seemingly impossible task. Some goals you can set with them are:
Talk to a new person today
Play with friends
Talk about something fun with friends
Try to talk more during conversations
By splitting ‘socialising’ into these different aspects, you and your children can tackle it one by one so they don’t get overwhelmed. But remember: don’t scold them if they don’t reach their goal within a certain time period. Learning social skills take time and there’s no use rushing them if it makes them anxious.
Encourage instead of pressuring
While we are on that topic, remember to encourage and never pressure. Pressuring your kids to socialise can give them immense stress that causes them to form a negative link between social interactions and how they feel. Instead, encourage them by telling them they can always try again and that you know they did their best.
Acknowledge their efforts! Make them feel good about what they’ve achieved – even if they didn’t make it to the finish line.
A version of this story first appeared on Young Parents.