Social skills are a vital part of early development. They impact your child’s ability to interact, communicate, and form relationships with other people throughout their life. Your child’s identity, sense of agency, ability to make friends, and overall well-being are strongly linked with their social skills.
Children with well-developed social skills — the verbal and nonverbal cues people use to interact with others — can express their thoughts and feelings and be understood. Using the proper tone, volume, and word choice is an example of verbal social skills. Adding in gestures and facial expressions to help convey your message is an example of nonverbal social skills.
Most kids’ skills develop naturally through their interactions with other people. Understanding the importance of social skills helps parents support their children as they learn these essential behaviors. Let’s explore social skills in-depth and how to promote your child’s development.
Why Are Social Skills Essential for Children?
Your child starts learning the social skills that guide their communication and behavior before they ever step foot in a school. Developing these skills at a young age will help improve their social interactions throughout their entire life. Consider the following reasons why social skills are important for young children:
- Making friends: Building relationships with other kids is crucial for your child’s social development. Interacting with their friends teaches them essential developmental skills like kindness, problem-solving, conflict resolution, sharing, and showing empathy. Children with well-developed social skills have an easier time making friends and forming positive relationships as adults.
- Transitioning into or between schools: Attending a school for the first time can be a major adjustment for children. Well-developed social skills will help make the transition smoother. Children with strong social skills tend to have the confidence, self-esteem, and independence crucial to their social and academic success in school. Developing the skills to adapt to changing situations will help them manage change throughout their lives.
- Achieving higher education: Studies show that children who exhibit strong social skills at a young age are more likely to attend college and earn a well-paying job.
- Improving mental health: Developing social skills at a young age helps build resilience against stress, which reduces feelings of anxiety and depression and promotes mental health.
What Social Skills Are Most Important for a Child to Have?
Social skills develop slowly, becoming more advanced and complex over time. For most kids, these basic skills serve as the foundation for their interactions early in life:
- Displaying good manners
- Following directions
- Respecting personal space
- Making eye contact
Because people are born without this knowledge, these are all social skills that children need to learn. They develop incrementally over the beginning stages of life. Some children seem to pick them up naturally, while others need more time and support. Understanding average progression will help you identify if your child needs help. You can start monitoring for these traits around the following ages:
- Toddlers: By age two or three, most children start seeking attention from others. They start looking at people and saying hello to initiate social contact. Most toddlers make eye contact while speaking and take turns talking with others. By the time they turn four, children learn how to take turns and share their toys, though they may be reluctant to do so at times.
- School-age children: When children start school, they learn to cooperate with other kids in class and on the playground. They begin developing manners like saying “please” and “thank you.” By now, they understand fairness and are more willing to share. They can also comprehend the importance of privacy and respecting personal space.
- Teenagers: When your child reaches their teenage years, listening skills become imperative. They learn how to absorb new material, take notes, and review the information to succeed academically. Teenagers demonstrate an ability to follow directions by completing assignments and honoring the rules. By now, most have started developing complex relationships with their classmates. They’re learning how to manage their emotions, solve problems, and resolve conflict.
How Can You Improve Your Child’s Social Skills?
Learning social skills can be challenging for some children. Shy children or those with special social or emotional needs may need help developing these traits. Fortunately, with practice and support, they can learn the social skills they need to help them interact and build relationships with others.
1. Organize Social Interactions
Organize regular play dates at home to give your child the opportunity to practice their social skills with other children. At-home play dates allow them to play one-on-one in a familiar space with fewer distractions. Connecting with a classmate outside of school also often carries over to the classroom, and having a friend can make it easier to interact with other classmates.
2. Practice New Skills
The best way to teach your child verbal and nonverbal skills is to practice them together. Take a few moments during breakfast or while you’re riding in the car to role-play different social situations. You can practice dealing with conflict, showing empathy, or matching your tone with the thoughts and feelings you’re trying to communicate. Testing their skills in a safe environment can help build their confidence to handle real-life interactions.
3. Encourage Extracurricular Activities
Encourage your child to join a club or sport they enjoy. Extracurricular activities allow them to bond with other kids over their shared interests. They might have so much fun that they don’t even realize they’re practicing social skills.
4. Seek Additional Support
If your child has special needs, they may need more attention and support than traditional brick-and-mortar schools can provide. Find a special education program that addresses their personal growth and emotional learning along with their academic needs. At CCA, we provide the resources and assistive technology to help children with special needs learn how to express themselves, ask questions, turn thoughts into words, and develop other essential social skills.
Discover Social Opportunities at CCA
Developing social skills at an early age gives your child the tools they need to succeed in all aspects of their life. Practicing with your child and giving them more opportunities to interact with other kids will help them learn these important verbal and nonverbal behaviors.
While some children are natural social butterflies, others need help spreading their wings. Commonwealth Charter Academy prioritizes social interactions, connecting students all across Pennsylvania. We offer hundreds of social and educational field trips, dozens of student clubs, and many other special events, providing our students with plenty of opportunities to interact and grow their social skills.
Contact us today to learn more about how our social and education programs promote social development for CCA students.