Improving Social Skills

Improving Social Skills
Multi ethnic group of children playing together.

Improving Social Skills

May 2019 | Issue #08

With summer just around the corner and school getting ready to let out, many of us are thinking about what our kids will be doing to fill their time during the break. Some will go to camp, others will hang out with friends in the neighborhood, or visit with family. Whatever it is that fills your child’s day, there is more than likely a social aspect and a need for acceptable social skills.

Social skills are present in nearly everything we do as human beings from sitting at the dinner table having a meal to playing games with friends or teammates. When individuals struggle with these social skills, especially our own children, it can make for a long and often challenging summer, from finding activities to participate in, to being successful when participating.

Everyone can use a little help with their social skills from time to time!

Maybe it’s the increase in screen time or our love of social media, whatever the reason, social interactions, and the skills we need to be successful socially have changed. Many of our children and students struggle socially, whether they are individuals on the autism spectrum or those with social anxiety, or individuals that are a little awkward or simply not as successful as others. Whatever the case, having a little extra support can go a long way and make for a more enjoyable summer!

Below are five steps to keep in mind when working on improving social skills.

  1. Identify the skill to target – What is it that your student or child needs help with, such as starting a conversation with others or recognizing their nonverbal cues? Be sure to clearly identify the skill you want to work on and all the steps or rules that go along with it.
  2. Directly teach the skills with rules or steps included – What steps or rules did you identify, and which ones are your student or child missing/forgetting? Teach these rules or steps and be specific. Ask your child or student why he or she thinks they are important.
  3. Model the skill and roleplay – Show your child or student what it looks like to do the skill correctly and incorrectly. Often, it’s easier to point out mistakes or successes when watching others perform the task than it is to recognize the same mistakes or successes within our own actions.
  4. Give feedback – Talk with your student or child about the skill, what went right and what went wrong and what made it right or wrong. Don’t forget to include perspective taking questioning. Asking questions such as “How did that make you feel?” or “Do you think that person is going to want to hang out again?” and following it up with “why?” is powerful learning. Providing feedback and asking perspective taking questions helps your child or student move beyond simply knowing what the skills is to understanding why the skills are important.
  5. Practice, practice, practice – Finally, don’t forget to practice. Keep in mind, the more opportunities you allow for practice, the more opportunities you give your student or child to become proficient and comfortable with the skill before needing to use it on his or her own. Teaching social skills can seem hard, but have fun with it. There are plenty of opportunities to laugh through the trials and errors. We all make mistakes as we interact and grow in this ever-changing social world, so use the mistakes to help teach your child or student while normalizing the experience for him or her!

If you do have a child or student, struggling to make and keep friends, our PEERS program may be an option for you. Please contact our office for more details.

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