“How can we focus on teaching our child communication and social skills when she does not even know how to read and write properly?” is a common question asked by parents. While it is important to address a child’s academic difficulties, it is equally, if not more, important to deal with children’s difficulties in social situations. Social skills are required for successful interpersonal relationships and they can have a huge impact on a child’s overall self-esteem. Children with academic difficulties are often plagued by feelings of inadequacy. This, in turn, may make them diffident about social interactions. A lack of self confidence often leads to faulty interactions with peers, ending in rejection.
According to researchers, peer rejection can later lead to psychological problems including substance abuse and depression. This is reason enough to be proactive about our children’s social and emotional development. In order for children to be socially competent, we need to provide direct guidance and cannot expect them to learn the necessary skills just because they are immersed in social situations. Also, as parents and teachers, we need to realise that the expectations and pressures encountered by children of every new generation differ. This knowledge will help us focus on teaching children effective skills to meet the needs of their realities rather than discount their difficulties.
Pro-social skills entail both verbal and non-verbal forms of communication. They also include emotional regulation and conflict resolution. Accepting criticism, recognising emotions in oneself and others, giving and receiving compliments and being appropriately assertive are necessary to navigate our social worlds effectively.
Demonstrations, modeling and role plays are great ways through which children learn social skills. Modelling effective social skills ourselves is a way of teaching children the same. The next time you greet your neighbour or are angered by another vehicle while driving, be sure to display the right way to deal with both situations since children internalize reactions of those they are close to.
Nobody, not even children, likes being corrected all the time. So remember to point out errors in social interactions in a kind manner without blaming your child. Don’t forget to give a thumbs up, a pat on the back or say “Good job” or “I liked the way you made eye contact while talking with him” to show your approval. Most importantly, explain to your child the importance of good communication and social skills by discussing the connection between their behaviour and social consequences.
Lougy, R., DeRuvo S., & Rosenthal, D. (2008) Teaching Young Children with ADHD. Sage Publications India Pvt Ltd.
(An edited version of this article was first published in ‘In Sync with Kids’ at http://www.prayatna.org/blog)