28 Oct Developing Social Skills in Kids: 4 Tips to Help Your Kid Unplug and Connect!
As a parent, you may find yourself wondering, “What should I expect as far as appropriate social skills in kids?”
If you are lucky, you may fondly remember your childhood of playing Ghost in the Graveyard around the neighborhood for hours after school. Now, as a parent, all you see are the tops of your kids’ heads because they are constantly glued to a screen. If this is the case, it may be time to encourage them to form relationships. I’m not talking about the kind you measure by a streak on Snapchat. No, we’re talking about making sure your kids are collaborating, connecting, and creating meaningful relationships. Human beings are wired for connection. It is proven that having more numerous and deeper connections predict well-being and better health in the long term. In order to reduce loneliness, and ensure that your children are establishing and expanding upon the social skills they are meant to develop and utilize, please read the following four tips:
Lead by example
As a family, plan social outings with other families. By exposing your kids to social environments and activities with the safety of his/her family members close by, you are modeling the importance of connection. This connection helps them form positive social memories alongside you.
Find something your kid loves that encourages interacting with others
Whether it’s robotics, sewing, or student council, try to expose your kids to activities that spark their interest at a young age. A recent report from the U.S. Census Bureau shows that children tend to have higher levels of school engagement when involved in one or more activities, like sports, lessons, or clubs. However, the disclaimer here is that quality is definitely more important than quantity. When children are involved in too many different extracurriculars, they sacrifice breadth for depth. Your kids miss out on downtime and opportunities to simply be themselves. It is all about balance!
Volunteering helps build social skills in kids
Choose a cause or a charity that is meaningful to your child and get them to volunteer. Volunteering will get your kid out of his or her own head, and allow them to connect with others on a shared goal or vision. Social skills in kids can be learned and practiced while making your community a better place. Additionally, giving back to others works to combat depression. Volunteering increases the levels of the “compassion hormone,” scientifically known as oxytocin, in the brain.
Find the root cause of the issue
Was your child once very social and now you are noticing that they suddenly want to retreat into their rooms with their devices? Or, has your kid always preferred to hang with Mom and Dad instead of being social? Regardless of the issue, finding the root of the problem will help guide your approach. If you are noticing a big change in your child, talk to him or her. Find a calm time to mention to them the change you have noticed. Ask them open-ended questions about this change without judging them. Be open to their answers and try to collaboratively solve the problem with them.
On the contrary, if your child is painfully shy and truly doesn’t want to hang out with their peers, perhaps they are lacking some important social skills. Developing age-appropriate social skills will help them forge and maintain social relationships. Speak with your child’s teacher, and don’t be afraid to reach out for help! Try to understand the environment(s) where your child is struggling socially, and work with other stakeholders to arm your kid with age appropriate social skills. Making eye contact, asking questions about others, and problem solving with peers are all important social skills in kids. These skills can all be taught and practiced with you and/or a therapist.
Should I reach out for help?
Overall, you will know your child’s shy or antisocial behavior is a problem if it is causing him/her distress and getting in the way of daily life. If you are wondering whether or not you should reach out for help, look for the following signs:
- You notice a drastic change in your child’s behavior.
- You or your child can’t go places because of his/her shyness
- Your child expresses feelings of loneliness because they don’t know how to meet or join in with other children.
- Your child feels he/she can’t participate in class.
- You notice a drastic change in your child’s behavior.
If you are worried about any of these signs, we are here to help! We have a team of child and teen therapists that can partner with you in this process.
Your kid may never be a social butterfly. However, having one or two friendships will help them feel more comfortable, enjoy school, and practice life long skills that he/she will need throughout their lifespan.
Additionally, here are some other NSFS blogs that may help shed light onto this issue:
Annie is a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor who earned her Masters in Mental Health Counseling at Capella University and her Bachelor’s degree at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She has worked with children and families as a school counselor since 2013. Annie is also bilingual and can provide counseling in Spanish.
Annie operates from a strengths-based perspective, and is committed to providing a safe space for clients of all ages to explore their true potential. In this space, vulnerability is embraced, and self-awareness is enhanced. Together, she will work collaboratively with you and your family to set and achieve the goals that will assist you on your path to wellness. Annie enjoys helping children, teens and young adults learn to cope with family changes, life transitions, and school/social stressors. Additionally, she has extensive experience and training working with depression, anxiety and executive functioning. , activities, and games, she employs several cognitive behavioral and dialectical behavioral techniques, coupled with mindfulness strategies to help shed light onto how thoughts, behaviors, emotions, and consequences are connected.