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Social Skills: Let’s Teach Them !

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As this school year wraps up, most students and parents will eagerly, or  for some anxiously, wait for report cards. Progress in reading, math, writing, physical education and perhaps, depending on your district or structure of your school, aspects of learning such as ‘motivation’ or ‘character’ will be indicated somewhere on the document. However, do you know how your child is functioning regarding social skills? Does it really matter?

Research in education today signals a resounding yes. In generations past, children acquired these skills almost exclusively at home and within their families. With increasing negative societal influences and various sources of stress bombarding so many of us, it’s hard for parents to go it alone. Schools can often be an important partner with parents to provide positive social skills development. Yet, what can you do if your child doesn’t seem to be interacting socially in age appropriate ways?

First, to define the term, let’s agree that social skills refers to that broad base of skills children – and adults – need in order to communicate effectively and socialize with others. Randy Sprick, a well-known and respected author in the world of education, organizes social skills into four areas. Survival skills (e.g. listening, following directions, ignoring distractions, using nice or brave talk); Interpersonal skills (e.g. sharing, asking for permission, joining an activity); Problem-solving skills (e.g. asking for help, apologizing, accepting consequences) and Conflict resolution skills (e.g. dealing with teasing, losing, being left out, peer pressure).  This may be a helpful model when considering your own child’s strengths and weaknesses regarding social skills. Breaking down the vast term ‘social skills’ to bite size chunks will allow you and your child’s provider (or teacher or counselor) to better pinpoint what specific skill(s) need to be taught in order for your child to improve her overall social skill functioning.

Second, here is a summary of  four important reasons to help kids develop positive social skills.

1. Not only does it make sense intuitively – of course we want well mannered, polite children – but positive social skills lead to a safer school climate. According to information from the National Association of School Psychologists website, as discussed in ‘Social Skills: Promoting Positive Behavior, Academic Success, and School Safety’, current research supports that there is a relationship between the extent to which children and adolescents possess good social skills and school safety.

2. Students with good social skills do significantly better in school – academically, behaviorally, and socially.

3. Demonstrate respectful behavior towards teachers, adults and parents.

4. Develop healthy peer groups and friendships because they are able to show care and concern for others.

Certainly we all want our children to learn to read, write, and be able to compute math equations to the best of their ability; social skill development is something to note and monitor as important with consideration as well. Consider the four items above; how is your child doing?

This summer may be a great time for your child to pick up some extra skills in a fun and relaxing atmosphere. To learn more about social skill development or about Wasatch Family Therapy’s K.I.D.S. social skill group, call today.

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