Children and teens can experience social challenges at any point during the school year. Social context—including opportunities for interaction and collaboration with others—makes an enormous difference in what and how much children learn, and how quickly that happens.
People who are able to get along well with others do better in academic, personal, and professional dimensions of their lives. What can parents do to help their children develop positive social connections, and build a strong foundation for happy productivity? Here are eight suggestions:
- Be encouraging. Celebrate your child’s interests, personality, efforts, and accomplishments. This will help her gain the self-knowledge and self-confidence that will help her do well in social situations in playgrounds, schools, extracurricular activities, and later, in colleges and workplaces..
- Teach tolerance. Help your child appreciate his own strengths and accept his weaknesses. Show him that everyone has their own unique pattern of abilities, so he learns to welcome individual differences and diversity.
- Explore interests. We’re more likely to be at our best in every way, including socially, when we’re doing something we love. Help your child find opportunities to interact with people who share his interests. (This is especially important with kids who are shy or socially awkward.)
- Welcome problems as learning opportunities. When you or your child encounters an obstacle or challenge, avoid looking for someone to blame, and instead focus on being resilient and on moving forward in a positive way.
- Solve problems together. Effective problem-solving skills are an important part of social success. Show your child through your own attitudes and behaviour how to deal respectfully and collaboratively with issues with other kids. Help him build a network of support, including ample opportunities for play, talking, listening, and sharing because that’s when kids learn important social skills.
- Teach safe social media habits. Does your child understand both the positive possibilities and the destructive dimensions of social media? Make sure she knows how to handle cyber-bullying, whether it’s directed at herself or others, and to avoid questionable online interactions.
- Be available. Problems with relationships are both unavoidable and a healthy part of growing up. Your child is more likely to thrive if he feels he can talk to you about what’s going on in his social life, without judgement, blame, lecturing, or recrimination.
- Model kindness, thoughtfulness, and good conflict-resolution skills. Work toward a positive family atmosphere where each member of the family feels liked, respected, listened to, and loved.
As children navigate the social challenges ahead, parents can support them in many ways including by reinforcing their efforts, teaching then to be tolerant, encouraging them to explore their passions, demonstrating how to welcome obstacles, solving problems together, and teaching safe social media habits. Most importantly, parents can stay attuned to what’s happening in their children’s lives and create a positive, responsive family atmosphere.
For more information on this and related topics, see
Beyond Intelligence: Secrets for Raising Happily Productive Kids by Dona Matthews and Joanne Foster (House of Anansi, 2014).
How to Raise a Socially Intelligent Child, by Laura Markham
Growing Friendships, by Eileen Kennedy-Moore
Four Best Ways to Raise Children with Social Intelligence, by Janet Lansbury
To enter a back-to-school contest and win 4 copies of Beyond Intelligence for your child’s school: http://beyondintelligence.net/2015/08/28/back-to-school-challenge-enter-to-win/