Social skills for children: Can they be taught? (part 1)

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Are you worried about your child’s social skills?

Does your child have friends? Is she or he struggling with feeling alone or having no playmates? Does she or he  come home saying that he is being picked on or she is getting teased. Are you becoming very aware that your child has social issues?

If you do there is a very strong possibility that you feel helpless. Am I right? Or maybe even angry at the kids that you feel are making your child miserable.

Social skills are crucial and is one of the most important skills that can help make a child feel good about herself and the world around her. But, not all children are born with natural social skills and the ones that weren’t are very probably suffering.

Statistic show that kids that suffer socially throughout childhood often end up having social issues into adulthood.

While it is true that some children outgrow their antisocial behavior, research does show that  kids that are social misfits  become adults that are outsiders and lonely adults. These issues can have long range effects on marriage and their own parenting skills continuing the cycle through generations. Unless something is done.

And something can be done.

Your child can actually learn the right social skills.

There is a well known book  called The Unwritten Rules of Friendship: Simple Strategies to Help Your Child Make Friends. The premise in this excellent book by Natalie Madorky Elman and Eileen Kennedy-Moore,  is that there are unwritten rules of friendships and social skills that some children have naturally BUT, the ones that don’t can actually be taught.

The same way there are different rules in the adult world there are also rules that are unspoken in children’s worlds.

Most adults know that we listen politely when someone is speaking, we don’t ask our boss for a raise after she yells at us about some mistake we made, we don’t just touch people we meet in elevators and other seemingly common sense scenarios.

There are also different rules for different cultures. While in In America, eye contact is considered very  important, in other cultures it is considered disrespectful. Even different states in the Unites States have their own cultures.

What happens with kids is that naturally sociable kids pick up natural rules from each other while the kids with the social problems seem oblivious.

I have a nephew who is about 10yrs old  who has this type of cluelessnes to what is considered normal. I recently had him over  for the weekend. My older daughter who was around at the time and is way past her teen years was complaining that she would like to go ice skating on weekends more often but, none of her friends have been  available. At this point my nephew pipes in from the other room in clear exasperation .

“Well, I would be available if it wasn’t for my parents“.

We thought it was pretty funny but, he had no idea that this was inappropriate and that a 10 yr old is not the kind of company my daughter was looking for.

This may be a minor incident and doesn’t affect him as much as his cluelessness with his friends in his class does.

How easy is it to teach children social skills?

I’ll tell you the truth. I don’t really know because I’ve  have had to do it aside from the usual of my kids skirmishes but, I have heard that learning good social skills is like learning a foreign language. It could take a long time but, its learn-able.

What my plan here is to basically go through the book The Unwritten Rules of Friendship for you ( so you don’t have to read the whole thing on your own.) I am going to summarize what is written in the book but, if you want you  certainly have the option of reading the whole thing. Some people find a whole huge book intimidating so I’m going to give you the Cliff notes (remember those?)

After this introductory post I will be writing about the 9 different  prototypical children that are composites of all kids that they present in the book. This way you can read about the types of children that most fit your own children and ignore the rest of them.

The social skills your children will learn

The skills you will be teaching them will hopefully give them the proper tools that will help them through all of their present and relationships.

The will be learning about following, leading, arguing, making up and empathy just to name a few.

As you start on this journey there here are 5 things you need to keep in mind.

  1. If your child is in a regular school situation then you must be in touch with his or her teacher. A teacher will very often give a very different picture of what is going on than your child may tell you.
  2. Children must be given opportunities to socialize. If they are home schooled then it is even more important  for you to find social venues for them, and if they in school with too many structured activities then you need to make time for play dates as well.
  3. Don’t rush. go slowly and be consistent. Make the learning fun and don’t overwhelm them. They may need to learn the skills again as they get older but, they mainly need to feel love and acceptance from you
  4. Be very empathetic and confident in their abilities to change. Focus on success and don’t concentrate on the negative.
  5. Emphasize kindness by placing a high value on kindness even in your own  home. Don’t allow no cruelty with siblings and encourage joy in giving. Make sure to express appreciation when he is thoughtful and helpful

Next week I will begin with the first composite of children the vulnerable child  which deals with bullying as well.

Do you have a child with social issues? I would love to hear what your experiences have been as we start out on this journey.


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