How do you teach social skills in children?
Babies are born to interact, whether it’s with their parents, grandparents, or their beloved fluffy teddy bear. Socialisation does not need to be taught in the most basic sense because it is already embedded in your child at birth.
While being around other babies and toddlers has certain advantages for both parent and kid — whether in the form of classes, playgroups, or daycare — there’s no need to worry about socialising your child just yet. Much of the interaction needed for social development occurs naturally. But, if you’re ready to venture out with your newborn, here’s what you need to know.
What Are Social Skills
Social skills are the abilities we utilise to engage and communicate with others on a daily basis. They encompass both verbal and nonverbal communication techniques such as speech, gesture, facial expression, and body language.
A person has great social skills if they comprehend both written and implicit rules when speaking with people and know how to behave in social circumstances. Social skills are problematic for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Pervasive Developmental Disorder (not otherwise specified), and Asperger’s.
What are the advantages of social development in infants?
Social skills are essential for a person to have and sustain positive connections with others. Many of these abilities are essential for forming and maintaining friendships.
When challenges develop in encounters, an individual must be able to execute suitable techniques, such as conflict resolution. Individuals must also have ’empathy’ (the ability to put yourself in someone else’s position and recognise their feelings) in order to respond to how others are feeling in an understanding and loving manner.
When Do Babies Develop Social Skills
How does your infant learn to interact with others? When and how do they begin to form relationships?
It all starts with you. Your baby will look to you to address their needs from the moment they are born, mostly food and comfort. However, as they become more awake, they will desire more attention and stimulation.
Your baby’s first playmate and favourite person is you. They will rely on you for all of their needs in life, including love, food, comfort, and education. They will be enthralled by the sound of your voice, the sight of your face, and the feel of your hand.
The sense of security you provide for your child will give them the confidence to begin building deeper relationships with others. With your assistance, they will begin to appreciate their company as well. This is how your baby’s social skills will develop.
Your infant will begin to respond to and adapt to the people around them the moment they are born.
During their first year, their primary attention will be on discovering what they are capable of doing, such as picking up objects, walking, and conversing and playing with you. They’ll enjoy meeting new people, but they will always prefer to be with their parents.
Around the age of two, kids will begin to enjoy playing with other children. However, just like any other ability, they will have to learn how to socialise by trial and error. They will first be unable to share their toys. They’ll eventually learn to empathise with their playmates. They’ll be on their way to creating actual pals by the age of three.
Development of Social Skills in Children
With the right support from parents and caregivers, a baby’s social skills will develop over time. With this timeline, you can see how they gain their skill:
Even infants are social beings. Your infant will enjoy being stroked, hugged, cooed at, and smiled at.
Your infant may begin to experiment with creating faces at you as early as the first month. They’ll enjoy studying your expression and may even imitate some of your motions. Stick your tongue out and watch them do the same.
When you carry your baby in your arms at this age, you will naturally be holding them about 20 to 30 centimetres from your face. This is the distance at which your baby can best focus when they are born. Nature is making certain that yours is the first face they see.
By two months, your baby will spend the majority of their waking hours watching what is going on around them. They may even give you their first beautiful smile, which will be a memorable and heartwarming experience for you.
Your baby will become an expert at “smile chat,” initiating a dialogue with you by smiling and gurgling simultaneously. Make a point of responding to them and taking turns playing the game.
Your baby will also appreciate face-to-face activities with you, such as peek-a-boo or getting tickled beneath the chin repeatedly.
Your infant is becoming more receptive to new people, greeting them with squeals and delight. Still, no one compares to mum and dad. Your infant will save their happiest reaction for you. This is an indication that you have formed a bond with each other.
As your baby grows in mobility, he or she may become interested in other babies. They’ll joyfully play with another baby, and every now and again, they’ll smile, coo, and imitate each other’s sounds.
But they’ll be focused on the task at hand and won’t be able to play together just yet. For a long time, you or an older sibling will be your baby’s best playmate.
Around seven months, you may notice that your baby is apprehensive of new people and becomes nervous if they can’t see you.
If they become agitated when you leave them alone or offer them to others to hold, try to remain close by. They will become increasingly autonomous and keen to explore the world around them as time passes, with you nearby to reassure them.
You and your baby will have formed a strong attachment by the end of their first year. When you are not at their side, they may appear agitated or frustrated. They may withdraw, scream, or refuse to be held.
This separation anxiety usually appears between the ages of 10 and 18 months. However, it can arise at any moment between 6 and 20 months. Your infant will prefer to be held by you and may become distressed if you are not present.
Your child is curious about the world, but especially about how everything in it relates to them. Your child will learn to make friends as they learn to talk and communicate with others. They’ll appreciate the companionship of other kids their age and older now. At this age, they will play beside youngsters rather than with them. That will happen later.
If your toddler is sobbing or distressed, they will show that they are aware of another child’s distress around the age of 18 months. They may, however, be unsure how to reply.
Your child will be intensely protective of his or her things. Learning to share takes time, which can be challenging for parents at times.
You may also see your child imitating you and their peers, as well as spending a lot of time monitoring what they do. They’ll also wish to assert their autonomy. They may refuse to hold your hand while you walk down the street, or they may throw a tantrum if you refuse to do something they want to do.
Your child will grasp love and trust between the ages of two and three years old. They will be able to express their affection by reaching out for kisses or cuddles. They are, however, unable to put themselves in the shoes of others or see that others have feelings as well.
Your toddler, on the other hand, is getting better at sharing their toys and is likely to designate all of their playmates as friends.
Your child will learn to share and take turns as they develop, and they may even have one or two specific mates they choose over others.
Their language will also be quickly evolving at this time. You may notice that they begin to mimic phrases and things that they hear from you, both good and unpleasant! Language development is a critical component of your baby’s socialisation.
How to Teach Social Skills to a Child
The best strategies to support your baby’s social development are to show him or her love, care, and attention, as well as to model excellent social behaviour.
By discussing real-life experiences with your child, you can play an active part in modelling appropriate social and emotional development and empathy. Here are some activities you can do with your child to help them develop their social skills:
- Play with your child to help him or her develop joint attention, turn-taking, shared interests, cooperation, and acceptable toy play.
- Assist the kid with understanding and expressing their own emotions, as well as recognising similar emotions in others.
- Assist the youngster in understanding and recognising how other people are feeling in specific situations.
- Social stories: These are stories that are intended to educate youngsters about specific social skills that they may find challenging or perplexing. The story’s purpose is to develop the child’s comprehension by explaining a specific circumstance in-depth and advising an acceptable social response.
- Social skill groups: These are organisations that meet specifically to learn how to connect socially with others.
- Make a poster of the rules to remember when initiating a conversation (e.g., using a nice voice, making eye contact, and using acceptable greetings such as ‘hello’).
- Roleplay: Play out settings when the youngster does not know anyone on the playground or at a party. Make a list of several things you can say and model them:
- To join those who are participating (for example, “Can I play as well?”)
- To introduce yourself (for example, “Hi, my name is…”)
- To bargain gently with peers (e.g., “I don’t want that one; can I please have the blue car?”
- Sing songs like “If you’re happy and you know it” to teach a child about different emotions.
- Play turn-taking games (e.g., board games) to encourage a youngster to say whose turn it is in the game (e.g., “my turn,” “your turn”).
- Games: Engage the child in board games. Make certain that the child is not always the ‘winner,’ so that they learn about ‘losing’ in a game and are better equipped to manage when this occurs with their classmates.
- Bean bag talk: Toss a bean bag around a circle and have each youngster take turns contributing to the dialogue. Consider many methods to contribute to the discussion (e.g. ask a question, comment on what has been said, add something related to the topic).
- Watch and remark: Act out various scenarios and comment on appropriate and inappropriate communication attempts (e.g. standing too close or too far from another person, not using appropriate eye contact, interrupting a conversation).
Consult your paediatrician if your child appears to be struggling with social skills more than other children. While it may only take a little more reinforcement and maturity to catch up, a lack of social skills can also be an indication of other issues.
Children with mental health disorders such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or autism spectrum disorder (ASD) may fall behind socially. A doctor can evaluate your child and determine if treatment is required to improve social skills.
Image source: iStock
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