You've whipped them up a healthy lunch, ironed their uniforms, packed their homework and sent them into the classroom to soak up as much knowledge as they can - but how can we prepare our kids for socialising in the playground? At Inspire Ability we believe that social integration is an essential part of every child's schooling experience and recognise that it can have a huge impact on their motivation to learn and collaborate in the classroom. To help you with your child's transition back to school, we've listed our top five tips for teaching social skills to kids.
Reciprocity and sharing - being able to give and take in a relationship is a critical skill and has a huge impact on developing lasting relationships. Explain to your child that their friendships are not one-sided, it's important to take turns playing with toys, choosing which games to play and the rules of these games.
Emotional understanding - it can be hard for our kids (especially those with learning disabilities, ADHD or Autism) to tune into their peers' emotions and react appropriately. Take the time to explain to your child what different emotions look like. You can do this by watching a movie together and pausing it to point out body language signals and/or facial expressions. It's also useful to teach your child how they can support their friend who is feeling sad, angry or stressed. They could ask them if they'd like space, if they want to talk about it or if they just need a simple hug.
Social boundaries - again, kids with additional needs may struggle to understand personal space and how this impacts their relationships at school. Start by showing your child how to maintain an arm’s length distance between them and their peers during conversations. Explain that touching your friend without permission is not appropriate, nor is asking personal questions about their home life, body or grades.
Listening - it's not just about staying quiet while someone else is talking, we need to really absorb they're saying so we can contribute to the conversation, provide feedback and show we care. You can practice this with your child by paraphrasing what they've said to you before responding, then showing them how to do the same.
Using manners - this isn't just reserved for parents and teachers, it's essential to teach your child how to use manners with their friends too! This may be as simple as asking their friend "can I please play with you?", "can we share this toy?" and saying thank you!
If your child seems to be struggling with social skills more than other kids, talk to your therapist at Inspire Ability. It may just take a little extra practice and maturity to catch up with their peers.