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Five ways in which a child learns social skills

Image: http://www.sheknows.com/
Most parents agree that they want their children to reach their full potential – whatever that may be. They won’t enjoy and celebrate a child any less if it turns out that his or her fullest potential doesn’t involve straight A’s and being hugely successful in the sports arena. In fact, most of us will be more than pleased to see our little ones grow up to be truly happy and successful in their own unique way. As long as they live their best life – everything else is a bonus.


    However, ask any adult about their happiness level and whether they think they’re living meaningful lives and you will soon realise that "living your best life" is not as easy as it sounds. It's so difficult, in fact, that any practical advice to parents about things that can be done during the early years to increase a child’s changes to be happy and content one day is extremely valuable.


    Today’s tips focus on what research teaches us about cultivating social skills in our children. It is, after all, impossible for a person to be either happy or successful without being able to get along with people.


    Here are five things that parents can do to help lay a solid foundation with regards to social skills:


1. Talk about emotions. Studies show that children, whose parents talk about emotions often, are more popular and more comfortable in social situations and better able to cope with anger and disappointment.


2. Deliberately work on having a sunny outlook on life. Kids with the most developed preschool social skills are the ones who experience more positive emotions at home. It’s not necessary or even realistic to be constantly happy, but practice a “can-do” attitude towards setback and frustrations.


    Studies indicate that children suffer when parents – and particularly mothers – tend to give in to anger or despair when things don’t go according to plan. The more often children see their mothers display negative emotions, the less likely they are to view their mothers as people who can comfort them and give them advice.


3. Create special opportunities for pretend play and join in the action every now and then. One of the most important ways in which children develop friendships during the pre-school years is by playing pretend games together.


    Researchers have found that kids who pretend together are less likely than other kids to quarrel or have communication problems. They also develop self-control and the ability to “put themselves in somebody else’s shoes”. Parents who play along from time to time are doing their children a huge favour. Kids are found to play for longer and at a higher level when parents encourage them – but remember to keep the experience upbeat and don’t take over the situation completely; allow your little one to take the lead.


4. Use words wisely when you discipline your child. Kids whose parents take the time to explain rules and discuss consequences of bad behaviour have found to be popular, have more self-control and less conflict with peers.


5. Be sensitive to your child’s emotions. One study, done by Suzanne Denham in 1997 asked children to say what they think their parents would do when they experience strong emotions in various situations, for instance when they wake up from a bad dream. The very same kids who reported that their parents would comfort them and not ignore their emotions or get angry were the ones who were pointed out by teachers to be more socially skilled when they are amongst their friends. These children were also better able to relate to other children’s feelings, and they were generally more cooperative.


    What much of the research boils down to is that taking part, in an emotionally positive way is very important to your child’s social development. What’s more, discussing emotions, whether positive or negative, helps your child to understand their own emotions, and therefore other people’s emotions, so much better.


The Practica Team
parents who know better... do better


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