Helping your child with their social skills is key in their development. By doing this, you are helping them to communicate and interact with others. We use social skills every day, and by modelling these in a positive way you will prepare your child to make friendships and handle different social situations.
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There are many different ways of playing that can help your child develop their social skills. These include role play, and the use of puppets. Perhaps you can role play different scenarios, for example when your child makes a new friend, what are good things to say? “Hello, my name is…what is your name?”. You could use a puppet and pretend they are having a bad day and feeling sad, and model to your child what to do in this situation.
Playing board games is a great way to improve your child’s social skills. Your child can experience not “winning” every time, for example in a game like snakes and ladders. They can also learn how to take turns, for example a game of Snap. Young children can often find it difficult to share but teaching them ways to do this will help them.
Practising conversations at home with your child will help them develop their social skills. Ways you can do this are simple such as sitting down with your child and having a chat, and showing them positive ways to communicate such as being polite, not interrupting, etc. Demonstrating good manners such as using please and thank you is important for young children. If these are used at home from a young age, it is more likely they will use these themselves.
Learning body language
Not all social skills are verbal, some are non-verbal such as using eye contact and learning about personal space. Using eye contact with your child when they are talking to you and facing towards them are simple techniques that can model good social skills to your children.
You could also play a game that involves using poor social skills, for example ignoring or turning away when someone is talking. You can talk to your child about how this can make you feel. This is a great way to teach them about recognising body language.
Giving your child the chance to mix with others is a great way of helping them develop their social skills, from playgroups for toddlers, classes for preschool age children and groups such as Beavers/Rainbows for primary aged children. As well as being a great social opportunity for them, groups such as these can also be an opportunity for your children to make friends.
Off screen activities
It is not uncommon for children to have a device such as a tablet or phone and spend some of their time at home watching a screen. Like everything, screen time in moderation can be okay but this can be a problem when children start to spend an unhealthy amount of time in front of a device. This may have a negative impact on their social skills.
Encouraging off screen time activities together as a family, or by inviting friends round can be really fun and beneficial. Why not get some arts and crafts out, or do a baking activity? How about arranging to meet at the local park with some school friends? This is a great opportunity to socialise away from any screen distractions, and to get some fresh air.
What shall I do if I am worried about my child’s social skills?
As with every milestone it is important to remember that all children develop at their own pace. By helping and encouraging your child to develop their social skills you are doing the best you can. If you do have concerns and would like to talk to a professional, reach out to the Health Visitor if your child is under 5, or have a chat with your child’s school if you would like any advice around this.
Our top tips
Make it fun! Helping your child develop their social skills can be really fun by playing games and spending time together.
Model the behaviour that you would like to teach your child.
Find a balance you are happy with, for activities both on screen and off screen.
It may help to chat to other parents on our forums to find out how they are dealing with this issue within their family life. You can also talk to us online via our live chat service, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on our helpline on 0808 800 2222 to speak to trained family support worker.