Learning to make friends is one of the most important skills in a child’s development that will benefit them throughout their entire life. Social development in early childhood has been extensively studied in the past and today Kidz Venture would like to share with you the importance of being social with your child.
As parents we feel the need to seek social experiences for our babies and toddlers in order to provide them with the opportunity to grow, interact and become accustomed to their social environments in a healthy manner. However, it is also natural for us as parents to be concerned about “letting go” and allowing our little ones to face social situations all by themselves without our presence or involvement (e.g. in the classroom or at a play date).
In such situations it is important for one to remember that every child is unique, yet every child requires their parents’ assistance and encouragement in different ways, to be able to deal with these social encounters effectively.
"It is natural for us as parents to be concerned about “letting go” and allowing our little ones to face social situations all by themselves"
It is universally known that children differ in their level of enjoying social activity. Some children are extroverted by nature, meaning they have a natural tendency and a liking to interact comfortably with people, while others may be less naturally inclined or very introverted. However, if a less naturally inclined child is raised in a very social home environment, it makes social encounters less challenging for them whereas if the same child were in a less social home environment, may not enjoy social interactions at all. Therefore, it is evident that the ability to get-along-with-others can be ‘learned’ as an acquired skill, which means that a child can practice and improve upon in time.
Still, some children that are introverted by nature may have an environment full of social activity and social interactions but they choose not to participate. They are fully aware of how to interact yet they make a conscious decision not to, despite the constant encouragement of their parents and teachers. Keep in mind that this is okay, because some children just take their time to process and adapt to their social environments, they prefer to observe first and once they are ready they will slowly emerge from their shells. It is important not to confuse encouraging them to be social with pushing them and to allow them to socially develop at their own pace.
"It is evident that the ability to get-along-with-others can be ‘learned’ as an acquired skill, which means that a child can practice and improve upon in time"
There are 5 areas of child development as follows:
1 Physical: The child’s body skillfully grows, becoming more complex in its performance in two key areas: gross motor skills, that concern the development of larger muscle movements (e.g. crawling in infants and running in toddlers) and fine motor skills, which are responsible for coordinating muscle movements (e.g. gripping objects in infants and drawing a circle in toddlers).
2 Social and emotional: Focus is on child’s acquisition of knowledge, relationship skills and personal capabilities. Activities in this area target your child’s ability to make and keep social relationships, both with adults and with other children. A child will learn to recognize and express his own feelings more effectively as they develop. Furthermore, a child will learn to understand and respond to the emotions of others.
3 Cognitive Development: This involves learning skills such as thinking, memory and attention that will help the child in recognizing, reasoning, knowing and understanding objects or situations. These activities help a child figure out how the world works and how things are organized. A child will first experience “learning how to learn,” improving problem-solving ability and abstract thinking.
4 Communication and Literacy: Communication is the exchange of messages or meanings. Communication uses all the senses, even though we often focus on language and speech there are other non-verbal forms of communication such as writing and body language. Children learn how to express themselves using the following skills: Receptive speech to understand what others say, expressive speech to express what they want to say and articulation, learning the actual pronunciation of words. Early reading and writing skills are also targeted.
5 Moral and Spiritual Development: A child’s understanding of how to relate to others ethically and morally constantly grows. It involves recognizing values such as honesty and respect, acquiring concepts such as right and wrong and understanding the consequences of one’s actions.
There is a definite pattern in these developments. For example, a child moves from simple to complex ideas, another child may walk and run but has never crawled or rolled over. Even if a child misses a few stages, the development still proceeds as the expected pattern.
"One of the best ways for a child to effectively progress in this development is through one of the main social outlets of an individual’s life in childhood, schools or daycare"
One of the best ways for a child to effectively progress in this development is through one of the main social outlets of an individual’s life in childhood, schools or daycare. Majority of parents opt to enroll their child into these facilities with the intention of giving their child an opportunity to acquire knowledge, skills and enhance their personal capabilities. However, one of the most beneficial things a child learns from this method of social interaction is how to build relationships with other people, be it one to one or with a group.
What can parents do if they see their child struggling socially?
A common concern of several parents is that their child is shy and they ask what they can do to support their child in social situations. Teach them how to introduce themselves with daily social greetings. If you have a toddler or preschooler, you can teach them how to say, “Hi my name is….” and then ask another child their name. You can also do this with babies too. By teaching your child kindness and confidence in practicing simple daily interactions with others you are empowering them for their future and lifelong friendships.
Parents can continue to encourage the child to practice saying hello and goodbye, with a smile, when you are out and about at the supermarket store or at the park. Children don't need to be the most popular in their class, but they do need good social skills. Being sociable helps people of all ages in their resilience and the ability to withstand challenging times in life.
Therefore, the ability to have good social relationships is not just about a child’s nature and personality, it also has to do with a child’s nurturing environment. It can also be learned, provided children are given the right guidance and encouragement from their parents and limitless time to learn it. Just like a good coach can make the difference for a budding soccer player, parents can help their children become socially skilled by helping them engage in social behavior with patience.
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