Maintaining friendships and navigating new social experiences and relationships can be challenging for children. There are many ways to encourage and support children in navigating social relationships which help with personal growth, development and overall quality of life. Focusing on social skills can help your child feel more confident in navigating various different types of relationships. Here are some tips to help improve social skills and guide your child to thrive! Model Healthy Relationships Children often learn by observing their environment and those around them. Try to focus on demonstrating what healthy friendships look like by encouraging communication, trust and boundary settingat home and within familymembers. Help your child establish boundaries and discuss the difference between the boundaries in different relationships and in different environments. It is also important to avoid modeling negative or maladaptive behaviors in front of children whenever possible. Common maladaptive behaviors at home include yelling, swearing, name calling and negative self talk. Conflict resolution within the home can also be a great opportunity to communicate and compromise when necessary to avoid engaging and modeling unhealthy patterns. Conversation Skills The ability to initiate conversations and communicate openly is crucial for connecting with others. Role playing can be a great tool and fun way to practice conversation starters, learn body language and make a child feel more comfortable engaging with new people. Role play different scenarios from school, different interactions with teachers or peersor just role play usingyour imagination! Discussing or practicing using role playing can also help build a child’s confidence specifically with speaking and listening. Confidence Building Setting boundaries and maintaining healthyrelationships can certainlybe impacted by a child’s confidence! One great way to help build confidence is by supporting your child in finding a passion or something they like and enjoy doing. Allowing your child the opportunity to share this interest or skill with you can help with communication but also help boost their confidence and encourage more of these interactions even with friends at school! Other things such as pointing out strengths, praising effort over results, modeling self care and celebrating accomplishments can all help to boost confidence at home and within social relationships.
Help Identify Interests & Expand Social Circles Many great friendships are built on common interests and experiences. Helping your child identify activities they enjoy and interests they want to explore can allow them for more opportunities at social interactions! Signing them up for sports teams, clubs and special interest groups where they can regularly interact with like-minded children can also encourage new social relationships and interactions. Shared interests may give them something to bond over and provide natural conversation starters! Maintain a Supportive Environment & Encourage Open Communication Disagreements and conflict occur in even the best friendships and relationships and can be worked through using the right skills!Teaching your childhow to handle conflicts in a healthy and productive way can help them navigate difficult relationships. Encouraging the use of “I statements” when communicating their feelings and focusing on empathy and compromise while also maintaining boundaries can be useful in helping children navigate social relationships and friendships. An example of an “I statement” is “I feel sad when you ignore me.” Using these statements at home and encouraging the expression of emotion in relationships can be helpful! Encourage Social Interactions Consistent positive interactions are important in friendships and social relationships. If your child is still young,arranging playdates and planning activities outside of schoolfor children to interact can be helpful and beneficial for the child. For adolescents, encouraging social interactions and supporting your child in this area is important and can encourage transparency between the child and parent. It is also important to be aware of and mindful of isolation and sudden changes in a child’s interest in being social. Sharing Experiences & Learned Lessons Sharing past experiences and showing interestin having open discussions about social relationships and how to navigate them is important! Sharing similar experiences or feelings regarding social relationships can help in a variety of ways. This may lead to a more open and transparent relationship where friendships and social relationships are talked about more regularly. Additionally, this can provide a sense of relatability and understanding which can foster trust in this area and provide a space where a child feels they can ask for feedback for advice when needed.
Regardless of age, navigating relationships can be challenging but it can be especially difficult for children! Teaching social skills from an early age and helping to guide your child in navigating friendships and social relationships can help set them up for healthy relationships throughout life. With your support and encouragement, they can be better equipped to handle life’s social challenges, engage well with others and enjoy meaningful and healthy connections!
Jasmine Cruz, LPC