At their most basic, social skills are what we use to communicate and interact with others, but they include more than just the ability to communicate. Social skills are vital to wellbeing. They can help your son make and keep friends, get along with others, thrive at school, negotiate puberty, manage relationships, and later down the track, find and keep a job.
Social skills comprise verbal and non-verbal communication, including facial expressions and body language. Boys with well-developed social skills have the ability to communicate effectively in a variety of situations, relate well to and feel empathy for others, have strong friendships and a healthy self-esteem.
Below we offer six ways to improve your son’s social skills and set him up to have a happy and fulfilling school life.
1. Facilitate discussions
It is incredibly important that your son knows how to hold formal and informal conversations. Create situations when your son can practise his conversation skills with different groups of people. This may be at the dinner table or at social events. Talk about life: school, sport, activities, news, friendships or anything that interests him. Remind your son that conversations are a two-way street and he will need to listen in order to contribute. Take this a step further and play conversation games, such as, taking on the voice and persona of a character or person of interest i.e. the Prime Minister, bus driver or journalist.
2. Develop good concentration skills
To promote social skills, help your son to build concentration, which will allow him to focus on those he is socialising with. To develop concentration skills, play board games such as chess or memory games. Choose activities that will encourage your son to concentrate and use his memory.
3. Discuss emotions
Emotions play a very significant role in determining behaviour. Help your son understand the various emotions he feels and how his behaviour changes as he is experiencing them. Anger, for example, is a common emotion for children to feel and social skills allow him to deal with his anger effectively. If he is feeling angry about not winning his soccer game, explain how he can channel that anger by training harder for the next game.
4. Promote empathy
Empathy refers to one’s ability to look at things from another’s perspective in order to understand the feelings they are experiencing. If your son is able to place himself in the shoes of others and feel their sadness, happiness, or anger, for example, he will develop healthy relationships with others. Talk to your son about the situations of others around the world; those living in third world countries with minimal food and water; those who are fighting for equal rights; those without parents who care. Discuss their experiences and how they could shape their feelings and affect their behaviour.
We have all heard the saying, ‘practise makes perfect.’ For your son to develop social skills, he needs opportunities to use and develop these skills, with his family, friends and others. By playing with others, whether it be a sport, make believe games or board games, your son will learn to share, take-turns, co-operate and communicate, all of which contribute to the development of social skills.
6. Model behaviours
Self-regulation refers to one’s ability to adjust or regulate behaviour and emotions to suit a particular situation. This is a difficult skill for children to develop and they often learn how to behave from the adults in their life. Your child will emulate your behaviour and will look for cues from you on how to deal with confrontation, anger or even sadness. Talk to your son about the importance of adapting his behaviour for different situations, for example sitting quietly in Church, contributing in class, or comforting a friend in need.
If your son has well-developed social skills, he is more likely to be a happy, healthy and confident child. He will have the ability to build strong relationships and negotiate difficult social situations.
Trinity Grammar School is fuelled by a pastorally aware culture with exceptionally high levels of individual student attention, and we pride ourselves on knowing, understanding and nurturing every student. For over a hundred years we have educated boys in mind, body and spirit – and we recognise that this is can only be achieved through teachers, students and parents working in unison.
To learn more about the Trinity difference, download our prospectus.