Improve Your Child’s Social Skills

social_anxiety_s640x480If you knew you could do something to help your children succeed in every realm of life, you’d do it, right?

You can. Here’s what it is: Helping them develop social skills.

Being socially savvy is becoming more critical than ever. In part, that’s because our culture is in the process of descending into a techno-centric screen-to-screen lifestyle. While that has disturbing implications, it does hold a silver lining for those who put in the effort to hone and maintain excellent person-to-person skills. Those who can act like extroverts (even if they’re not) are likely to be happier and more successful.

So how can you help kids sharpen their social skills? Like any other skill, being social takes practice. So encourage your kids to interact with people at every possible opportunity: Have them order for themselves in restaurants, let them chat with others at the supermarket (with your supervision, of course), and RSVP yes when they get invitations to attend parties, sleepovers, and other social events.

It helps to practice social situations with kids at home: Supplying them with appropriate verbiage – getting them to understand what’s best to say (and what not to say) under different circumstances – will serve them well. You could even create and practice scripts together.

If you overhear your child saying something innocent but inappropriate (“Why did your dog die?”), try not to scold. Instead, when both of you have left the social situation, gently explain why what the child said was amiss (“I know you were just curious, sweetheart, but asking why someone died could make someone else feel sad.”), then supply alternatives for what could have been said instead. (“I was so sorry to hear about your dog. That must have been very difficult for you. Is there anything I can do to help?”)

Providing lots of positive reinforcement is key. When you’re proud of a social interaction you saw your child participate in, say so immediately — especially if you can tell that your child stepped out of his or her comfort zone for the sake of being outgoing. Praising their positive social efforts will only help them feel confident and socially strong.