6 Must-Have Social Skills for Children and How Parents Can Teach Them Skip to main content
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6 Must-Have Social Skills for Children and How Parents Can Teach Them

Learning social skills is a crucial part of a child’s development. They allow them to interact positively with others, build relationships, and effectively communicate their thoughts and feelings.

Your child's school can have a profound impact on how they develop these skills. For example, IB schools in Dubai operate on the philosophy of holistic education, which focuses on nurturing not just academic abilities but also social and emotional intelligence.

Still, there's a lot you can do at home to instil a few essential social skills in your child and help them prepare as they're about to enter the early years of their education.

Top 6 Social Skills for Children and Tips for Teaching Them

1. Sharing

Sharing can be a difficult concept for young children to grasp. Kindergarteners and preschoolers, particularly, have a hard time sharing their toys and belongings with others, even at the expense of making friends or pleasing their caregivers.

This is because they're usually focused on their own needs and desires which, to them, are more important than anyone else's.

This is normal at this age. However, since sharing is an element of daily social interactions, they need this skill to play cooperatively with others and build friendships.

How to practise:

* Roleplay sharing scenarios with your child, like sharing a snack or toy with a sibling or friend.
* Praise and reward their efforts when they do share.
* Play games like building blocks or board games to help them understand the concept of taking turns and waiting for their chance.

2. Listening

Actively listening to what someone else is saying is a vital skill for children to develop at an early age. It's an integral component of healthy communication, essential for succeeding in school and life.

Listening involves more than just sitting quietly and nodding along; it's about paying attention, fully absorbing what is being communicated and responding appropriately.

Mastering active listening can help students better handle social interactions, answer questions, follow directions, understand stories and develop empathy for others.

How to practise:

* Read books with your child and ask them questions about the story to gauge whether they've been listening and help them fill in any gaps.
* When communicating with your child, have them summarise what they've heard or repeat it.

3. Cooperation

Good cooperation skills enable children to effortlessly work in groups on shared projects, express their ideas, and respect one another's opinions.

For children, cooperating on something could be anything from helping a classmate with their work and completing group projects to joining clubs or playing team sports.

How to practise:

* Get them involved in household chores that promote cooperation, like setting the table, helping with laundry or cleaning up together.
* Play games that require working together, like solving a puzzle.

4. Empathy

Empathy is the ability to put yourself in someone's shoes and understand how they're feeling. It's a difficult one for some adults, let alone children, to master. However, the younger they start learning it, the more they'll be able to appreciate the similarities and differences between themselves and others and empathise with them.

For kindergarteners and preschoolers, this can mean simple gestures. For example, if their friend falls and starts crying, they can help them up, give them a hug and say something comforting like "I'm sorry you got hurt." Empathy takes time to develop, so be patient with your child as they learn.

How to practise:

* Model empathy by being sympathetic whenever your child is upset.
* Teach them healthy ways to handle negative emotions like anger or jealousy, such as taking deep breaths or talking through what's bothering them.
* Label feelings and emotions for them when you're watching TV, reading or having conversations. This will help them build a vocabulary of emotions they can recognise in themselves and others.

5. Following Directions

Following instructions is particularly important when children start school. It's when they go from obeying only their parents' rules and expectations to taking directions from other authority figures like teachers and administrators, whom they may not know at all.

For your child to acquire this skill, you must first look at how you're giving instructions. It helps to:

* Give your child a single direction at a time. So instead of saying "Put on your PJs, brush your teeth and get to bed," say "Put on your PJs" and give them time to do that before moving on to the next task.
* Ask your child to repeat your instructions back to you so you can make sure they've understood what they need to do.
* Remember that young children still have a short attention span, so have patience and give them time to process and respond.
* Praise and reward them every time they listen and follow through on your directions.

6. Understanding and Respecting Boundaries

Children learn how to socialise by observing the behaviours of those around them, especially their parents and guardians. For example, if a child usually sees their parents hugging their family and friends, they'll probably learn that this is how people show affection.

So, when they attempt to show love and care towards others in the same way, they may not understand it if someone is uncomfortable with it.

Teaching your child to ask for permission and respect boundaries helps them develop a sense of respect for others. The same applies to establishing their own boundaries. Encourage your child to understand that it's perfectly fine to say no to hugs, kisses or any other displays of affection from anyone, even if it makes them uncomfortable.

How to practise:

* Roleplay different scenarios with your child that involve asking for permission and setting boundaries.
* When interacting with others, remind your child to respect their personal space and ask for permission before hugging or touching someone else.

Patience is Key

Acquiring these social skills will take time and practice, and it's entirely okay if your child hasn't perfected any of them by the time school admission in Dubai comes around. Remember to be patient, model the behaviours you want your child to develop, and praise them for their efforts, no matter how small.