Tweens & Teens Think It, Move It for Students with Social Challenges program, I’d like to discuss the importance of social skills for children. Social skills form the foundation of our ability to make lifelong, personal connections. They are the basis for our home, community and school relationships which tie us to other people. Now that the school year is at its midway point, let’s focus on school relationships. School is a great venue where children learn cooperation, develop friendships, improve self-esteem and establish positive outlooks while ultimately improving kids’ health. How can you help your tween or teen – with or without special needs – improve his/her social skills this school year?
- Smile and initiate conversation. Ask your child to smile and greet one new child each day. Just say, “Hi” while making eye contact. This is often enough to reduce the pressure and begin some conversations that build toward relationships.
- Listen. Teach your teen that conversations are a 2-way street. Just as your child would like her opinions heard, her new friend would like to discuss her thoughts and feelings.
- Question. Asking others polite questions about themselves is a great way for your tween to learn about his new friend and look for common interests for building friendships. Teach your child how having others talk about themselves is a good way for your child to help others feel important and valued. It also removes pressure from your tween because he does not have to carry the conversation. In time, he will begin to feel more comfortable around these students and interacting with others.
- Empathize. Remind your teen to always remember that she should be sensitive to others’ reactions. She should not only think of herself but also consider the feelings of others.
- Take risks. Putting yourself out there to meet new people can be scary – for children and adults alike. Encourage your tween to take small steps and don’t be upset if every interaction isn’t perfect. The important part is your teen is trying to make new friends.