Teaching Social Skills to Antisocial Children
Some children practically come out of the womb ready to make friends, navigating the social landscape of childhood with tremendous ease. Other children are innately more reserved and struggle to connect to their peers. Most children fall somewhere in between - but it is completely understandable why parents of children who fall into the less social group tend to worry. Few things pull the heartstrings of a parent more than seeing their child alone on the playground or with few friends to go on playdates with.
Various challenges can get in the way of children organically making and keeping friends. Whether your child’s struggle is fueled by social anxiety or an inability to pick up on social cues, an innate thinking difference or a genuine preference to spend more time alone, it is recommended that you take the following steps to help your child become more comfortable and capable in the social world:
1. Encourage your child to become involved in age-appropriate extracurricular activities. There, they will meet other kids their age with similar interests - a fertile ground for friendships to form. Even if your child is content with having fewer friends, simply being in a position in which they are required to flex their social skill muscles is an important developmental exercise. Even if they walk away from the activity without having made long-term friends, they will have still had the opportunity to stretch themselves out of their comfort zone and practice foundational social skills in the process.
2. Be aware that you model social behavior in front of your child. Whether you realize it or not, your child passively internalizes every interaction you have with others that they are present for. This means a little can go a long way - use this as an opportunity to model basic social skills with your own friends and family. In front of your child, demonstrate the importance of treating others with care and compassion, how to interpret body language and visual cues, the role of turn-taking, what patience looks like, how to respectfully handle conflict, and more. Even when you think your child isn’t paying attention, it’s essential to serve as a positive role model because children really are little sponges.
3. Help your child enhance their self-esteem. When children have a strong sense of self, they often have an easier time making and keeping friends. Have your child play the hands-on Strong Suit: The Tower of Self Esteem game with you, their siblings or their peers. This game was engineered to help address issues of social anxiety and communication skills among children of all ages. This structured and playful approach will undoubtedly go a long way.
4. Continue to empower your child through another form of playtime. Link Alike, a social skills ice breaker game universally loved by all teaches children how to seamlessly make friends! It enables them to explore and feel proud of their individual personalities and interests while needing to develop strong social skills and build self-confidence in the process. At the same time that they are engaged in the fun of this spirited social skills game, they are taught to build relationships with people of diverse identities, cultures and backgrounds with an emphasis on mutual respect in place of judgment.
It is no secret that healthy social exposure helps children develop emotionally and morally and sets them up for a life of fulfilling human connection, effective communication, and increased self-confidence. The reality is that a lot of power lies in your hands as the parent, so as long as you capitalize on this beautiful opportunity to guide your child towards increased social ease, chances are that things will ultimately fall into place. We encourage you to give the above tips a try and let us know how they go!