4 things you can do to help your child's social development

As a parent I am always hearing concerns from other parents in regards to their child’s social skills. This may be worries before they start school; as well as concerns that their children are displaying or picking up difficult social behaviours from other children once they commence kindy or school. So here are 4 ways to help develop your child’s social skills and ensure they will cope better in social situations:

Allow your children to resolve their own social conflicts

Often Parents and adults’ step in way too early in resolving childrens conflicts. This negates the childs opportunity to practice solving their own conflicts, and also increases their reliance on adults. So unless there is a danger to the children involved, ignore the conflict and allow them the opportunity to sort it out for themselves before stepping in.

Emotion Coach your child

In times when the conflict is unable to be managed independently by the children, then use emotion coaching to help the child, rather than solving the problem themselves. This involved you asking prompting questions and/or commenting on the situation.

I.e. If Jonny has snatched a toy from Shane, you would say: ‘Uh oh, I thought that Shane was playing with the truck?’ Followed by: ‘I wonder how Shane feels now?’

Expose your child to loosing in a safe environment

Play games with your children that involve winning and loosing, mucking up and making mistakes from a young age, in a safe, non-judgemental environment. Children need to learn how to deal with the big emotions they experience when they loose or make mistakes in a safe space. Other kids will not allow your child to win every game to keep them happy, so avoiding playing games or allowing them to win all the time to keep the peace is not going to be helpful in the long run.

Use difficult socials situations as teachable moments

Social media now seems to be a platform for many parents to go gang busters on other parents about their children’s behaviour. At the end of the day, you cannot control what other children or parents do; but you can allow your children to learn from these moments. Firstly, think about your reactions and how you act as your children will learn to model your behaviour. Secondly, use the experience to teach your child. In life our children are going to come up against peer pressure, situations and influences out of our control, so it’s better to teach them how to deal with these from a young age.

For example, my son was put in time out earlier in the year for being involved in rough play, which is unlike him. He has chosen to be friends with a child whose behaviour is not always favourable, however instead of telling him not to play with the boy and complaining about this child’s behaviour to the teacher and other parents; I had a discussion with my boy about whether the behaviour is right or wrong. We discussed that some children have a harder time understanding what is right and wrong and controlling their behaviour. And we had a discussion about what he thought he should do next time if his friend is doing something that he knows is wrong.

An example from my own childhood is when I was very upset because I wasn’t chosen in the netball team as my friends. Instead of my mother going and complaining to the committee and coaches as some parents choose to do; she taught me the valuable lesson about doing my best and proving through my actions that I was good enough to be in the other team. Through this my mother empowered me to be in change of my own actions and work hard for what I wanted, rather than be handed it on a platter through complaining.

Hayley Willis