Social Skills Development
Humans are social animals, and children are the ultimate socialites. As humans, we use both verbal and non-verbal communication to interact with others around us. Through gestures, body language, and our personal appearance. We have established several methods to understand and be understood by others by exhibiting good manners, communicating effectively with others, being considerate of the feelings of others and expressing personal needs
Good social skills have a direct impact on a child’s behavioral and emotional development as well as several numerous health concerns such as cardiovascular diseases, obesity, diabetes, etc.
Having challenges regarding social skills can affect a child’s development in terms of making new friends, maintaining friendships, meeting new people, or even dealing with failure and understanding basic social situations.
The role of the Parents:
The first social skills children learn are acquired by watching the adults around them and the role modeling of what they see. That’s why parenting is about so much more than seeing to the physical needs of a child. Prior to a child stepping into a classroom, they should have been taught several social skills.
Parents can help put in place certain cornerstone developmental traits that we as teachers would be able to build on. Such as expressing their emotions in different situations, communicating how they feel about certain conditions and circumstances, and enhancing their listening skills.
When teachers come into the equation:
Once children get into a classroom setting, we need to sharpen their social skills through their interactions with their teacher and their classmates. We teach social skills through play and fun using stories, songs, puppets, and games to teach kids to interact with others. This prepares them to be productive members of society later in life.
Every child requires a different approach, and children have unique ways of developing social skills. And we as teachers, strive to distinguish their different needs. But what they all need from a teacher is reassurance that the classroom is a safe space where they are loved and valued. When a child feels they can trust their caregiver, be it a parent or a teacher, they will confide in them if there is something troubling them.
The proper social skills that need to be taught can be divided into three stages: determining the social skills that need development, figuring out ways to teach the skills, and reinforcing lessons with the right resources, but not all kids need help with the same social skills, and what your child needs practice with could vary, depending on his or her age. It is important to know the normal developmental skills appropriate for different age groups so you can determine where the help is needed.
Followed is a checklist for if a child has difficulties with social skills:
- Use fleeting eye contact, do not consistently use eye contact or stares at you fixedly.
- Not be able to take turns when talking to their communication partner.
- Struggle with using appropriate body language (e.g. stands too close/far to another person).
- Fail to use polite forms of communication (e.g. saying: please, thank-you, hello and good-bye).
- Be unable to start and end conversations appropriately.
- Interrupt others frequently.
- Be unable to maintain a topic of conversation and provides irrelevant comments during a conversation.
- Talk ‘at you’ in a conversation as opposed to engaging in a two-way conversation ‘with’ you.
- Not ask appropriate questions.
- Repeat information in conversation and tend to talk about topics of their own interest (e.g. trains, a favourite TV show/person).
- Show little or no interest in what the other person has to say.
- Fail to understand jokes and language, such as sarcasm, idioms, and non-literal information (e.g. ‘This place is a pig sty!’).
- Interpret what you say in a very literal way (e.g. when you say “Can you open the door?” the child “yes” without moving to actually open the door).
- Talk with unusual speed, stress, rhythm, intonation, pitch, and/or tone of voice.
- Be unable to understand different tones of voice or read facial cues.
- Fail to ask for clarification if they are confused or if the situation is unclear to them.
- Struggle to respond appropriately when asked to change their actions.
- Tend to disclose (excessively) personal information to unfamiliar people or strangers.
- Appear unaware of others and fail to read other people’s feelings based on their verbal and non-verbal cues.
- Be unable to respond to teasing, anger, failure, and disappointment appropriately.
- Be unable to adjust or modify their language appropriately according to the communication situation.
- Lack of empathy (i.e. is not able to imagine what it is like to be somebody else or in their situation).
- Lack of imagination.
- Appear self-centered.
- Fail to understand the consequences of their actions.
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