The Basics of Social Skills
Having strong social skills consists of two parts. First, you must have the skills to interact with others. This includes the skills to enter a group, hold a conversation, reciprocate conversation and read social cues – both verbal and nonverbal. If a child does not have these skills we need to provide direct instruction on them. This includes explaining the importance of the skills and practicing each of them through role-play and games.
Second, you must perform the social skills in a social situation. Some kids have trouble using the skills they know. This might be due to anxiety, inattention, impulsivity, lack of motivation or interest. In this case, an adult needs to provide support during the social situations. By providing activities with structure (bowling, board games, crafts) the child does not need to improvise and the adult can help monitor the interactions. Role-play can help in this case too. Practice may decrease a child’s hesitation during social interactions. Sometimes providing a child with a goal for the day or week can help too. For example, the child will invite a person to sit by them at lunch everyday of the week.
Remember, each person has different level of desired social interaction. It is okay if a child only has a few friends as long as the child is happy, has the skills and performs them when needed!
Motivating the Unmotivated
Some of the children in our discussion experienced little motivation to make and keep friends with their classmates or neighborhood peers. One of the reasons for the lack of motivation may be the belief that the child did not need the other kids or they could not relate to them. In this case, interventions must proceed with caution. If the child is happy and not upset with the lack of interaction then it may not be the appropriate time to intervene. The child must want to change. However, this does not mean the child can ignore, be rude or exhibit inappropriate behavior. In this case, keep your child relevant by involving them in school activities or activities with other kids. That way, when your child wants to develop more friends, the other kids are accessible and your child has a connection with them.
Specific Strategies for Promoting Pro-Social Skills
Magination PressPublishes numerous kid friendly books on feelings, making friends, bullying and other possibly relevant topics.
2004 Seminar TIPS
This article was derived from an online seminar for parents in the Davidson Young Scholar program. The title of the seminar was: How to make and keep friends - Promoting pro-social behavior.
A few themes emerged from our discussions of promoting prosocial behavior of PG kids. These include:
The Tough Kid Social Skills Book, Susan M. Sheridan, Ph.D. Sopris West Publishing
Provides assessment, intervention and follow up information to create effective social skills interventions in the school.
Publishes numerous kid friendly books on feelings, making friends, bullying and other possibly relevant topics.
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