HAPPY LESSONS 4: DEVELOPING EARLY SOCIAL SKILLS


Developing Early Social Skills

An Apology

I am sorry I have not written for a couple of weeks but I am now back on form. 
Also I am slightly concerned that this week’s blog comes over a bit preachy and if it does I apologise.  The only excuse I have is that I feel so passionate about it and over 20 years have seen how important these skills are.

Why are Social Skills so Important?

Social skills are one of the most important skills anyone can develop, as however intelligent we are, if we cannot fit into or get along with the world around us, it will have a significant effect on our personal happiness and achievement. However, many parents and even some schools focus primarily on academic or physical progress.

The most vital time for your child to be forming significant relationships is between 0 and 4. The close bonding experiences developed with a parent, grandparent or even a key worker in a nursery setting will have a deep effect on your child’s life, helping to develop their confidence, understanding and empathy. There is a large body of evidence that suggests that children who do not develop these significant and close relationships before the age of 5 will be the same children with low self-esteem, be less successful and a greater chance of antisocial behaviour in later years.

These are some of the vital interpersonal Social Skills:
  •  To recognise your own needs/views and to communicate your needs/views through talk
  •  To recognise and respect other children’s or adults views and needs
  • To be able to take turns and negotiate with adults or other children
  •  To be able share time and objects with adults or other children
  • To be able to lead but not dominate play and to accept that you may not always be able to lead
  • To share your ideas but also to listen to other people’s ideas

Initially these social skills will be developed by the way you model them to your child. Although these skills are vitally important to master when young, they will remain important throughout your child's life.

Learning to Play

Helping your child to learn how to interact successfully with their peers will play a key role in their future happiness and we all have to be aware that sometimes by overindulging children we prevent this happening. All children need to have an early opportunity to socialise with other children both in and outside the home. Children need to become familiar with the rules and routine of play and recognise their own and other’s needs. Through Mother and Toddler groups, Crèches, Nursery settings and inviting other children into your homes, children will start to develop their social skills.

Initially sharing time and toys will be an issue, as up until now they have been the main focus of attention and they will display signs of becoming territorial. However over time and with support from you, your child will start to realise that they are only loaning their toys not losing them and that even if they share your attention with other children, they will still be just as special to you.

Your child will also need support in learning to lead play without dominating it, this means learning to express their needs through talk and being willing to taking turns. Sometimes you may have to remove a toy that your child refuses to share, or remove your child to a quiet place to reflect on their behaviour, especially if they are playing unsuitably (hitting, pushing, etc). The reality is your child may scream and shout in protest, but if you keep explaining why they are there and do not give in, they will over time learn the rules. Of course I recognise the temptation to give into their tantrums can be great. However, consider what you are teaching your child. If you eventually give in because they have ‘screamed’ for 3 minutes the message you give your child is that they can get what they want if they ‘scream’ long enough. This will mean they will then throw a strop every time they want something and life will become very stressful.

Finding Their Voice

Teaching your child to share conversations is another vital skill. Do not let your child continually talk over you, teach them to take their turn and not just call out (This will really help them when they start Nursery or School). For their self-esteem it is important to let them know what they are saying is important to you and to understand that if you are already talking you cannot also hear them. Also explain to them that what you are saying is important and if they talk over you, they cannot also hear you. Gradually with constant repetition they will learn to respect theirs and other’s needs and feelings. Sometimes swapping roles and doing some role-play will help get the message across. Young children will often find it hilarious to see you playing a child but it is surprising how quickly they pick up on the message. We often do not give children credit for how perceptive they are and learning through fun is always the best way forward.

Learning to interact with others will not be mastered overnight but if children gain these skills before starting school the transition will be much easier. If your child is not used to sharing time, talk and resources with another child or parent, imagine how shocking it is when they have to share them with 30 other children.


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