Social Skills: The Surprising Key to Your Child’s Future Success
How’s your Kindergartener’s social life? If this sounds like a ridiculous question, consider this: a 2015 study covering 20 years of data. Researchers discovered that your child’s social skills in Kindergarten correlate directly with future social competence and wellness.
If your Kindergartener tends to be the loner or social outcast in class, this could be alarming. But before you invite your child’s entire class over for a playdate to turn your wallflower into a butterfly, read about the best ways to help your Kindergartener build healthy relationships.
Learn the Difference Between Shyness and Introversion
First off, recognize your child’s unique personality and know that it can change. Then, know that quietness is not the same as introversion, and neither of these qualities determine whether a child succeeds socially. We all know that a loud, outgoing child can still lack social skills. In the same way, a quieter child can be very skilled at acquiring friends.
Learn the difference between detrimental shyness and an introverted child who simply needs time to recharge apart from classmates and friends. According to Psychology Today, the two are unrelated. Pay attention to whether your child seems more fearful of interacting with others or is just occasionally disinterested in social interactions. The former is an issue, the latter is natural behavior for introverts.
Know That Social Skills Start With Strong Boundaries
Strong personal boundaries not only help build a child’s confidence, but they are the key to strong social skills. When a child does not have healthy personal boundaries, he is not sure where he ends and others begin—and he will be unsure how to act under the influence of a controlling child or adult. You can reinforce your child’s boundaries by respecting his privacy and physical boundaries (no forced hugs, kisses, or tickle sessions) and validating his emotions. This will create a foundation for healthy relationships in the future.
Reinforce Basic Politeness (and Lead by Example)
Basic politeness shouldn’t just be for the public—and it goes hand in hand with boundary respect. Make a practice of using the words “please” and “thank you” at home, and teach your kids to use them, too. Your Kindergartener will learn that—as important as he is—his feelings aren’t the only ones that matter, and that politeness goes a long way in building strong friendships.
Invite Others to Your Home
Invite people over frequently—from grandma to your child’s classmates. Teach your child to interact respectfully with old and young, instead of allowing him to only interact with children his age. You’ll be able to see how your child interacts with adults that aren’t you, and you’ll be able to correct disrespectful behavior before it becomes a problem at school. A wide range of social interactions will increase the odds that your child will act appropriately wherever he goes.
Show Your Child How to Deal With Arguments
When your child plays at home with friends under your supervision, promote sharing, and when the inevitable argument arises, let your child work through it (to a reasonable degree). As long as respectful words are being used and toys aren’t being thrown, it’s OK. Show your child that a relationship can bounce back from a fight—and everyone has the power to use words to patch things up.
Ensure Your Child is in a Collaborative Classroom
We’ve discussed the importance of collaborative classroom environments before, and for more than just learning reasons. Are there different collaboration stations throughout the room–grouped sensory bins, reading corners, and mats—in addition to the usual classroom tables? When children are frequently paired up with others and placed into various groups, they get the opportunity to learn how to interact politely with others who are different than them, even if they don’t like them. This is a social skill that will benefit them greatly when they are making all new friends in college, or just have to interact with a co-worker that rubs them the wrong way.
Provide Emotional Support
When you pick up your child from school, make sure to ask her open-ended questions about her friendships. Whether she’s in the middle of a story about a massive fight or a fun day, ask her to pause and verbalize how she felt/feels about it. When your child frequently verbalizes the confusing emotions that often arise from relationships, she will feel more comfortable expressing herself calmly in the heat of the moment, instead of exploding or withdrawing.
Don’t Go Overboard on Social Skills Training
Along the way, remember that this should be fun. Don’t push your child too hard to make new friends. Remember, it’s easier to build relationships one-on-one for many children, so don’t be afraid to start out slowly if your child is easily overwhelmed and drained by social interactions. Along the way, remind your child that friendships are not “set it and forget it” deals. Children can expect their relationships to change and grow, just like they are!
How do you encourage your Kindergartener to branch out and make friends? Let us know in the comments. And if you’re looking for more ways to equip your child to learn and grow, sign up to follow the ECR4Kids blog.