For school to be a truly enjoyable and successful experience, your child needs to have well developed social skills.
Social skills are the ones that help children understand their place in a group. They help them to make friends and they’re also the skills that help them to bounce back when things don’t go their way.
Here are 4 of my top tips for social skills that will help your child to succeed at school.
Respects authority figures
Before school begins, some children have had very little exposure to authority figures who are outside their immediate family. The culture and expectations of home can be quite different to school, where general rules about behaviour are enforced so that students, teachers and parents know where they stand and so that the school can run smoothly and fairly for all. Schools have consequences for students who break the rules, and this can be challenging for young children who are not used to being accountable for their behaviour. You can help your child to cope with the expectations of the classroom and playground by helping them to understand the difference between behaviour that is right and wrong. Children who have been brought up in a home environment that encourages respect for grown-ups and consequences for behaviour (both positive and negative) often transition to school much more easily than children who have not learned about behavioural boundaries before school starts.
Understands social cues and communicates appropriately
To be successful at school, children need be able to have appropriate social interactions with others. We want all children to feel able to express their wants and needs in the classroom and in the playground, and for your child, this might mean learning when to speak… and when not to. To make friends, let the teacher know how they are feeling and have confidence at school, your child will need to be able to ‘tune in’ to the facial expressions and responses of others so that they know what to say and when to say it. This is a very high order skill for young children, and can take a while to learn. Sadly, kids who hit, yell, push and lose their tempers instead of using words to express their feelings not only struggle to communicate their wants and needs at school, but they also run risk of isolating themselves from their peers. You can help your child to get their message across by modelling effective communication at home and teaching your child how to look for other people’s ‘social cues.’
Plays or works independently or in a small group without needing to be constantly supervised
One of the realities of a classroom is that teachers cannot possibly give individual attention to every child during every moment of every day. In your child’s classroom, you will notice that children are usually seated in groups where they work and socialise with peers. Being able to work on their own without supervision will become an increasingly important skill as your child progresses at school. You can foster this skill at home by helping your child to persist with tasks and by not always coming to the rescue to complete jobs for them. Helping your child to develop independence and competence, even with small chores, is the starting point for building resilience and self-reliance skills.
Makes independent decisions, explores new things and takes some (safe) risks
School can be a busy place, full of new people, places and ideas. For some anxious children, this can result in a reluctance to step outside their comfort zone. As adults, we know that the most important learning often takes place when we are ‘stretched’ beyond what we are used to, but for young children, the idea of trying something new can be tricky. Research tells us that children who have been encouraged to accept a challenge, problem-solve their way to solutions and be willing to take a few (safe) risks often have stronger social skills than those who have been protected from challenging new experiences. These are children who have been taught that it’s okay to fail, and that trying is the most important part of learning. If you can, encourage your child’s curiosity and make it safe for them to have new experiences as often as possible. This builds confidence, helps young perfectionists who are averse to getting things wrong and will help your child to learn new skills that will enrich their life and learning.
© 2015 Sonja Walker