Updated: Aug 26, 2021
Social Skills are the most underrated skill set any child can have. Most parents pay no mind to teach their young children what may be a "correct" interaction with others. However, with an increase in bullying, it appears that it is never too early to begin teaching essential social skills in children. Strong social skills will lead to children growing up to be healthy, socially thriving adults.
What are social skills?
Social skills essentially have to do with the way we interact and communicate with others. They include navigating verbal and non-verbal communication nuances and reading body language, facial expressions, and gestures.
A person with strong social skills manages social situations exceptionally well. They respond to the people around them reasonably with great respect. They're often diplomatic, calm, and collected. Children with Autism Spectrum disorder or Asperger's face difficulties with social skills and usually have to be taught these skills.
Why are social skills important?
Good social skills go a long way for children. They help to sustain friendships. As social interactions can sometimes be complicated, we need a way to strategize or know when to compromise to maintain positive interactions with others.
Conflict resolution and empathy are examples of how this allows children to respond in an understanding and caring way to how others feel.
How to help improve social skills in your child?
We learn how to treat other people by modelling how the adults around us act. Social skills begin at home, and parents must play a very active role in helping their children develop these skills.
Here are some of the things you can try at home:
Play with your child to help develop joint attention, turn-taking, shared interests, cooperation, and appropriate play with toys.
Help your child to understand and display their own emotions and to recognize these emotions in other people.
Help your child to understand and recognize how other people are feeling in particular situations.
Use social stories: These are stories used to teach children specific social skills that they may find difficult to understand or are confusing. They work very well with children on the spectrum. The story's goal is to improve a child's understanding by describing a specific situation and suggesting an appropriate social response.
Involve them in regular playdates or other social skill groups — these are groups run with the express purpose of mastering social interaction with others.
How does Play Therapy help?
Each Play therapy session is constructed to help children express themselves and interact with other people more healthily and positively. There is an emphasis on cooperation, compromise, sharing, communication, mutual respect, compassion and empathy.
Play therapy is ultimately a form of child therapy used to help children cope with social and emotional challenges and inadequate communication, processing, and problem-solving skills. It is also used to improve undesirable behaviours so that children can interact with others in healthier ways.
During play therapy, a trained therapist or psychologist observes and assesses your child's thinking patterns, behaviours, decision-making, communication, and problem-solving skills, and play habits. The play therapist will then encourage your child to explore events and situations in his or her life – good or bad along with the various accompanying emotions– through play and non-verbal gestures. Your child then learns how to manage conflicting emotions, ease anxiety, cope with phobias and other stressful situations, and improve thought processes and behaviours. Over time, the goal is to give your child all the tools they need to navigate any of the "scary" situations they face with confidence.