Many parents consider homeschooling for their children because they’re dissatisfied with the public school experience their children are having. When they consider the negative influence their children are exposed to on a daily basis and the limitation teachers have in spending individualized time with their students, parents want a solution that will provide their children with the best opportunity to excel in their education. One of the main hesitations parents have, however, about homeschooling is the perception that homeschooled children fail to have the opportunity to develop the social skills necessary to navigate interpersonal relationships when its most important in the professional world.
While this is an understandable concern, the development of a child’s social skills is largely dependent upon the intentionality with which parents devote time to helping their children develop the social skills they need. Students who go to public school aren’t guaranteed to develop great social skills just because they’re in an environment where they are surrounded by people every day. In fact, public schools are often a major factor in students developing poor social skills because of the peer pressure that drives students to try to fit in rather than develop strong social skills. If you are a teacher in a public school setting, this course on effective classroom management can help you to create the type of classroom environment that is focused on alleviating some of the hesitations that many parents have in sending their children to public school.
Some people seem like they are natural-born communicators. They walk into a room, and everyone is drawn to them. They’re the kind of people that seem to bring a certain energy into any group they enter into, and they give others the feeling that they are genuinely liked by these people. They could carry on a conversation for hours, touching upon interesting moment after moment, and never lacking in their ability to capture people’s attention. They’re the kind of people most others wish they could be because of their remarkable ability to bring the best out of any social interaction. People like that are typically described as extroverted people because they derive their energy from being around people, but not all extroverts are able to deliver the kind of energy described above. In fact, while extroverts enjoy being around people and aren’t afraid of social interaction, many of them still lack the tact required to socially interact on a level that brings the best out of a social situation.
Introverts and Extroverts
While there are many people that derive their energy from social interactions, there are just as many people in the world who find their energy drained by social interactions. These people find their energy in either being alone or in a small group. These type of people are typically described as introverts. Introverts, however, are often looked upon with the misconception that they don’t like being around people or that they’re anti-social. While introverts may find social interaction draining, it doesn’t mean they don’t enjoy being around people. It just means that they need lots of time away from social interactions to recharge. In fact, many introverts would say that they love to be around people just as much as introverts, but their energy level limits the time they can spend in social interaction. Still, there are many introverts who lack the skills to navigate social interactions in a way that brings the best out of the interaction.
The Importance of Social Skills
Social skills are a vital component to being someone that gets ahead in the world, yet social development isn’t often something that children are intentionally taught, especially for students in public school. An advantage of homeschooling is that many parents have realized that their children could become disadvantaged in the realm of interpersonal relationships unless they’re intentional about getting their kids involved in some social skills activities. Because of this realization, the idea that homeschooled children end up being less social than public school children is often a misconception rather than an accurate description of how homeschooled children interact with others.
3 Vital Social Skills and Activities for Developing Them
Realizing that children need to be taught how to develop the social skills necessary to effectively navigate interpersonal relationships means that parents can help their children to develop into adulthood more holistically. There are several vital social skills that children need to learn in order to build healthy relationships both in their personal lives and their professional lives later on down the road. Once you realize what those social skills are, you can design social skills activities for your children to participate in to help them develop those specific skills.
1. Initiating Conversation
One of the most important social skills to master is the art of initiating a conversation. Children who struggle with social skills often struggle the most in the starting a conversation with another person. In fact, depending on the level of difficulty a person with which a person struggles with social interaction, they may never have a conversation with someone else unless someone else makes the first move. Without the ability to effectively start a conversation, many people miss out on some really good opportunities to build healthy relationships with other people.
There are some things in life that people learn naturally, such as walking. There are other things, however, that are often assumed to be things that people learn naturally, so they’re not things that people are often taught how to do. Starting a conversation is an example of something that people often assume is just a natural thing that people learn. For some people, starting a conversation does seem to come naturally. For others, some guided practice could go a long way toward helping them to better navigate the waters of social interaction.
Activity: Simulate Conversation Starters
A helpful way to practice the skill of initiating conversation with kids is to simulate conversation starters with them in a variety of imagined contexts. The hinges of any conversation are questions. Listen to any conversation between two people, and you’ll quickly hear that the conversation is a back-and-forth exchange of questions and answers. Therefore, the key to teaching children the social skill of initiating conversations is to have them practice certain types of questions in a variety of situations in which a conversation could be initiated. There are three types of questions to ask to initiate a conversation. They are:
What did you do?
What are you doing?
What are you going to do?
With your child, you can simulate some of the following situations in order to practice the art of initiating conversation by asking questions.
You arrive at school on a Monday morning. You ask a classmate what they did over the weekend.
You walk into the lunchroom, and you notice a classmate playing a game on their smart phone. You ask them what game they’re playing.
It’s the Friday before Spring Break, and you hear some classmates discussing plans for the break. You walk up and ask them what they’re planning on doing?
The key to asking good questions is being observant, having the courage to make the first move, and asking the right questions. Spend time with your child, creating imagined situations they might face, and work through the possible questions they could ask to initiate conversations in those situations.
2. Accepting Responsibility
The world would be a much better place if everyone did what they were supposed to do all the time. That kind of a world doesn’t exist, however, and people make mistakes, both intentionally and unintentionally every single day. This is never more true than in the realm of interpersonal relationships. What people do when they make a mistake or do something that hurts another person is an area where social skills are vitally important. It’s also an area where many people are lacking in social skills. Walk into any high school in America, and you’ll quickly learn that the response most people learn for when they are being corrected for a behavior they’ve committed is to either divert blame onto someone else or make excuses for why their behavior was okay. The problem is that neither responses lead to a change in the behavior because the person isn’t taking responsibility for their behavior. Accepting responsibility, for many people, doesn’t come naturally. The desire to deflect blame on someone else does come naturally. Therefore, the social skill of accepting responsibility is a vital skill people need to learn in order to effectively navigate interpersonal relationships.
Activity: Cause and Effect
This activity will help children see the relationship between causes and effects and how causes are responsible for their effects. You can choose any object lesson that shows the relationship between cause and effect, but a great example would be a demonstration of the domino effect. Simply take a set of dominos and stack the dominos in a line, one in front of another, with about a half inch of space in between them. Once you have a line of dominos, tip the first domino into the second and the second will knock over the third, the third will knock over the fourth, and so on. It’s a concrete illustration of the effect of one domino being knocked over. The first domino starts a chain reaction until all the dominos are knocked over.
Once you’ve shown the relationship between cause and effect, you can connect it to the idea that a child’s actions have consequences. If they can see that their actions produce results, then you can teach them how to take responsibility for those actions and their consequences. Just as with learning the art of initiating conversation, a good way to guide a child through how to accept responsibility is to simulate different scenarios in which they might be tempted to try to deflect responsibility away from them. The role-playing practice will help enforce the concept of accepting responsibility when real situations in which they’ve made a mistake arise.
3. Team Work
More and more professions require teams of people to work together and even before that, students are often required to work in groups on projects in school, so teamwork is a vital social skill to have. Unfortunately, working together isn’t always something comes naturally to people. Groups are often thrown together, with no consideration that the members of the group might not know how to navigate the interpersonal interactions involved in teamwork.
Activity: Collaborative Building
A good activity to help children learn to work together well is to have them design and build something together from building blocks. In a small group of children, introduce them to the activity, informing them that they’ll work together to build something. The first time they work together, guide each child through the process, helping them all to learn to consider the gifts and ideas of the others. Help them to learn how to come to a consensus on what to build and how to build it. Once they’ve done it through guided practice, then they’ll be ready to practice on their own with occasional guidance in case any of the children struggle. The guided practice portion is important because it gives the children an opportunity to learn what exactly to do in the situation, rather than trying to guess it on their own.
There are a number of other important social skills for children to develop as well as a number of other social skills activities for helping develop them, but these three are a good place to begin helping children to develop vital social skills. For more information about developing the skills necessary to communicate with others, freshen up your knowledge on effective communication.