Tip No.3: Build your child’s social skills and create opportunities to develop meaningful relationships
“We know from 50 years of research that social connections are an incredibly important, if not the most important, contributor to happiness… And it’s not just the quality, but also the quantity of the bonds: the more connections your child makes, the better.”
Sociologist Christine Carter, Executive Director of the University of California at Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center, an organisation devoted to the scientific understanding of happiness
By helping your child build positive and meaningful relationships, you are also:
– Giving them a better chance of doing well in school
– Encouraging good mental health
– Raising their self-esteem and how they see themselves
– Improving their chances of a physically healthier life
In their study report From Neurons to Neighborhoods: The Science of Early Childhood, Jack Shonkoff and Deborah Phillips, looked at nature versus nurture and found that having strong relationships is vital for children’s growth and psychological well-being.
“It could just be that they feel better able to develop their interests and create a successful business in this area, while having a few really close, life-long friendships.”
Children with better social skills often have improved educational outcomes, going on to achieve more in life, and tend to form stronger relationships. This doesn’t necessarily mean that they will achieve huge academic success, go on to be chief executive of a major organisation and have lots of friends. It could just be that they feel better able to develop their interests and create a successful business in this area, while having a few close, life-long friendships.
Help your child build their social skills.
How can we nurture social skills that help build a happy future for our children?
For the younger ones:
– Practise turn-taking. Encourage them to listen as well as talk. This is a great way of helping your child to be a good listener.
– Organise a playdate for your child. Start by having a friend over for just an hour to begin with, and then extend the time of playdates as your child gets more comfortable with them.
– Side by side play is fine if your child struggles to interact with others, but gradually, over time, try to encourage more interactive play.
– If your child is already comfortable playing with another child one on one, try to broaden their social circle by having a playdate with a child they haven’t built a close relationship with yet.
– Playing in a group is a greater challenge than one on one play dates. You may want to consider gradually increasing the number of children present if your child is ready.
– After playdates, talk to your child about how they went. If they went well, what made it good and if they didn’t go well talk about why that was and what could have been done differently.
– Try some role-play with your child. Take on the role of a famous reporter and ask them about something that is important to them. Next, get them to be the reporter and ask you questions on a specific topic. This is an excellent way of encouraging your child to show an interest in others.
– Let your child lead. Listen to their interests and take an interest in them yourself. Identify other children who share their interests and include them in activities you do with your child. If their interest is dinosaurs, why not invite a school friend along to a visit to a museum.
– Encourage them to join a club where they’ll meet others in a fun, structured activity. This can be a really successful way of improving your child’s social skills as long as it is something that your child is interested in doing.
And for your older children and teens:
– Take an interest in the things they have a particular ability for, are interested in or passionate about, even if it’s not your thing
– Encourage your child to join school clubs, or to set up their own if there’s none they are interested in
– Widen their group of potential friends by signing them up to out of school classes and clubs related to their interests
– Persuade them to get involved in volunteering or community work with a friend