Social Skills

child cleaning

During covid-19 homebound time, most parents have expressed concerns about their children’s lack of socializing. They worry that their child is missing out on developing important social skills for when they start (or re-start) school.

This is a valid concern, as friendship making skills are a very important component of school success. However, there are many other social skills that are valuable which CAN be developed during stay-at-home time.

Here is an overview of some of those skills and suggestions as to how you can support your child’s development at home.

Good Habits

1. Time management

  • Follow a daily routine, and make a checklist so your child can follow a schedule. For pre-readers the checklist can be pictures. (bedtime checklist; get-ready-for-school checklist)
  • Use a kitchen timer. Even 7 year olds can have trouble understanding “15 more minutes.” but when you set a kitchen timer they can watch as the time ticks away, helping them relate their activities to time passing.
  • Use a goal setting and reward system (call our free parent coaching service, the Family Help Line, for ideas with this! 1-800-932-4673)
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2. Take care of yourself and environment

3. Focus/attention

  • Children sometimes lose focus because they are too overwhelmed by the big picture. Show your child how to break things down into steps and do one thing at a time.
  • Create a clean, organized environment. The environment will not stay cleaned-that’s normal; cleaning regularly is part of developing these skills.
  • Play games and do activities that require focus and attention: jigsaw puzzles, playing catch or frisbee, follow a recipe, memory card game, word searches for older children, coin sorting

Good Relationship Skills:

1. Empathy
I love the expression, “”Empathy is caught, not taught.” Children will develop empathy by experiencing it from you and other adults in their life. Model empathy by showing it to your child when they are angry, sad, or frustrated. Validate feelings before trying to problem solve.
More information:

2. Cooperation
Cooperation is different from sharing. Both are important, but cooperation is probably much easier to teach to young children. It means working together to attain a shared goal. It does not mean that one person plays with a toy for a while and then it’s the other person’s turn–that is sharing.

Cooperation would be, “The playroom needs to get cleaned up and it will be much more fun if we do it together while listening to music we both like!” Or-“Oh, we’re late and it’s almost dinner time. Let’s set the table together so we can all eat soon!” These types of interactions also teach “helping” skills. You can say something like, “I really need your help. I don’t think I can do this by myself.”

3. Listening
Good listening consists of the ability to take in information, make sense of it, and then respond back appropriately. You can help your child develop this skill!

Make sure you have their full attention when you need to tell them something. Turn off all media or distractions when talking. If you are interrupting their play, understand that they won’t be very happy about it! When your child wants your full attention, and you are doing something or talking to another person, you might only “half listen” to them! When you are giving your child your full attention, look them in the eyes. You can even state, “I’m done talking to Aunt Sally. Now you have my full attention. Thank you for waiting.”

Demonstrate non-verbal listening skills when your child is talking with you. Smile, nod, ask follow up questions, express empathy, etc. You can also use the “repeat back” technique. After your child has told you something, repeat back the main points and ask if you got it right. You can then use this technique when you ask your child to do something for you–ask them to “repeat back” what you asked them to do.

These are all skills that will help your child’s social interactions when school resumes and they can play with other children.