Some children may find socialising more difficult than others. If your child struggles or seems reluctant to be with others, they may need some support to learn social skills. There are some things you can do to help.
Practise talking through role play, puppets and storytelling. Talk to your child through the day. You can also narrate what you’re doing, to help develop their language.
Let your child see you using good manners, like please and thank you. This will encourage them to act this way with their peers.
Children learn both verbal and non-verbal skills from the people around them. To help your child to listen well, you can:
Find ways to make taking turns fun. Choose an object and tell your family they have to be holding it when they talk. Pass it between you. If your child is a little older, take it in turns to make made up sounds as if you are having an alien conversation.
Practise making eye contact and smiling with your child. If they are old enough to understand, ask them to talk about something while you use poor body language. This could be crossed arms, looking away, or fidgeting.
Ask them how your actions made them feel. Then show them attentive body language. Take it in turns.
Consider teaching your child about personal space. Try:
Introduce the idea of boundaries by asking if you can come into their space. You could say things like, “Can I give you a hug?” or ‘I know you don’t like hugs so shall we high five?”
Help your child understand, express and cope with emotions. This develops their empathy for others and helps them sense how to react to the emotions of others.
Teach them to problem-solve. If they’re old enough, ask them how they think they could tackle any issues they have. Guide them with questions like “What could you do?” or “What could you say?” Try to avoid fixing it for them.
You can also talk to them about friendships and what it is to be a good friend. If you can, arrange and support opportunities for socialising.
Children use lots of social skills when playing. It can be helpful to spot opportunities in play for learning. You can:
If your child hits or bites, help them recognise how others feel when they’re hurt. Praise your child when you see them playing well. You can also gently encourage your child to apologise if they do hurt someone during play. Or if they don’t feel comfortable doing this, model apologising for them until they feel more confident. You could say something like, “Freddie feels sad that he’s hurt you and he wants to say he’s very sorry.”
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