Social Skills And School-Age Children
Social skills affect every aspect of our lives. We use social skills to appropriately foster relationships at home, work, in the homes of our friends and co-workers, and in our neighborhoods. Many children may desire to have social connections, but lack the necessary skills to interact appropriately with others. Since social skills are an important component for successful living, we need to make sure that our children acquire these skills and learn appropriate social rules.
Developing social skills at school is as significant as the academic domain. Learning how to get along with others, developing friendships, and establishing a positive out-look on life are critical. Students who are without social skills development experience rejection from classmates and learn to avoid social situations. Feelings of hurt and disappointment are the outcome and affect the child's ability to feel positive about school, peers, and life in general. As a consequence, a child may gravitate toward electronic gadgetry and other passive activities as a way of coping.
Although proper social skills training can be "caught" through parental role modeling, children need assistance in developing the social skills necessary to function appropriately in various life settings. In Daniel Goldman's book, Emotional Intelligence, the author talks about the critical need for individuals to learn problem-solving, decision-making, and interactive team concepts prior to entering the workforce.
Some teachers, counselors, and schools conduct "class circles" as a way of giving students the opportunity to communicate with their classmates and teachers on a variety of social skills and school-related topics. Through this process, students learn to problem-solve, make evaluations about their work and behavior, and learn to respect and value the opinions of their classmates. Students may learn to feel empowered and find that they have a vested interest in policies and procedures affecting their schooling.
It is important that schools and behavioral health professionals establish programs that promote social skills training. Topics for social skills training need to be incorporated into an interactive-oriented curriculum model:
- How to learn to comply with social group rules.
- How to introduce yourself to others.
- How to get to know others by asking leading questions of interest, i.e. where do you live? What activities do you like? Do you have brothers and/or sisters?
- How to quit being "the rule police" by not manipulating and controlling others.
- How to listen for feelings to determine if a friend needs emotional support.
- How to learn to respect different cultures, values and opinions.
- How to ask other students to join into play activities.
- How to manage conflict and cope with anger.
- How to handle social rejection.
- How to learn to give peers personal space when they desire it.
Social skills groups should be educative and provide opportunities for children to role-play various social scenarios along with promoting team-work activities. Role-playing ways of responding to specific social situations or managing conflict are important. Group activities such as building a model or playing board games teach children skills in learning to how to cooperate with others.
Education is not merely a process that involves teaching the "academics." It also includes teaching children social skills which will help make them feel more competent at school, at home, and in the community. Social skills training should be a joint venture involving the schools, parents, community, and behavioral health professionals.
James P. Krehbiel is an author, contributing writer for www.familyresource.com, and a cognitive-behavioral therapist practicing in Scottsdale, Arizona. He can be reached at krehbielcounseling.com.