Your child returns from school at 4 in the afternoon and you ask her, “So how was your day? What happened in school today?” She has had enough of school and simply says, “Nothing” or “Nothing happens in school” or “School is so boring.”
You have just changed schools and now you are a worried parent whose mind suddenly jumps from neutral gear to top gear. You start wondering if you made a mistake with your new school if your child is facing a troubling time if his teachers are not paying attention to him and whatnot.
In schools and outside so much attention is paid in the early years to fine and gross motor skills, cognition, intelligence, communication, etc but what about paying some heed to social skills? Skills which will prepare your child to face the school and the world around her and come up with intelligent responses when you ask her about her school day?
So what makes a child more acceptable in the society she inhabits? There are some fundamental skills that a parent should be aware of if she thinks her child becomes a loner, a computer nerd, a gadget freak or a recluse.
Social skills have a wide range and no list can be so comprehensive as to encompass all of them but here are some which are basic to all children and most situations.
- Communication skills. The language one uses and the context in which it is used is important to build relationships.
- Starting a conversation. What are the first words/ lines you may use to begin a conversation?
- Behaviour management. To distinguish between personal space (home, family) and public space (school, playground, party, restaurant, etc) and to adapt one’s behaviour to the environment.
- Reacting to strangers. Your child will meet strangers at home, in play areas and in schools in the form of visiting lecturers, community helpers, etc. How does one react to strangers? How does one recognize safe strangers (visitors you meet at home or in school) and ones you need to be watchful about?
- Making friends. If you feel a connection with someone in your class or your building society, how do you go about developing a friendship?
- Sharing. This is a major social skill as reclusive children, and even others, are often very possessive about what they own including toys, their food, books, and other objects.
- Dealing with uncomfortable situations. Teasing, bullying, exclusion and other forms of oppression are common occurrences in a child’s daily environment. How does she deal with them will determine how successful she becomes socially.
- Acceptance. Almost everyone in your child’s life has some unique characteristics, opinions, religions, attributes, and limitations. To accept that there will be differences is a major step towards social integration.
- Recognizing emotions. It is important that your child is able to see when someone is happy, angry, worried, irritated and is able to respond to these emotions.
- Contextualizing. Above all, it is important that your child is able to recognize the setting of her life at each stage and know that she needs to adapt her behaviour to the context she finds herself in.
So as a parent what do you do to inculcate these skills in your child?
- Expose children to a variety of social milieu
- Have a balanced opinion on issues and people yourself so that this transfers to your child who becomes more accepting
- Have them speak of emotions and play an `emotion’ game with them where they call out the name of the emotion that you are displaying or they are seeing on some media
- Call people over to your house – not only children but people of all ages – and make sure your child is not glued to a gadget while they are visiting.
- Give them an experience of public and crowded places including buses, trains and popular destinations.
- Ensure they know more than one language and at least understand the local language
- Introduce them to new people – maybe your friends or children at an extra class – from time to time.
- Don’t jump in to help them every time you find your child is uncomfortable.
- Get them to spend time with their extended family including grandparents regularly.
- Teach them to treat others’ property with respect and to share their own.
Dear parents this is not a comprehensive list but hopefully, it will provide some guidance in making your child socially adept.
Mr. Nitin Padte
Director of School
Rajasthani Sammelan Education Trust