Social Skill Development: Understanding the greatest power of them all

Being social and interacting with others is one of our greatest powers as humans and key to so many opportunities for us in society, however it doesn’t come easy for everyone, including our children, and that’s where we step in here at OTFC Group.

We’ve been talking a lot about social skills and the development of them in your children this month. Our aim is to give you all the tips and tricks we can, that are easy for you to implement throughout your day to day, at home, or out and about with your child. This is to help them every step of the way to understand social cues, apply them, as well as having the confidence to be more social with their peer group.

“Every day is a chance to learn”

Social skill development includes facial expressions, body language, gestures (verbal and non-verbal). Managing self and emotional regulation in a group situation. Turn taking is a big one we see within the OTFC Group as well as sharing, compromise and empathy. Recognising other group member’s emotions, reactions and cues are also all equally important.

4 easy ways to remember the fundamentals of social skills:

  1. Play skills: turn taking, sharing, compromise, listening
  2. Conversation skills: choosing what to talk about, what are ok topics, what body language to demonstrate such as eye contact
  3. Emotional skills: managing one’s emotional regulation, understanding and recognizing other people’s emotions, like empathy to what others are feeling and how can we tell?
  4. Problem solving skills: dealing with conflict, making decisions that are fair “how can we decide who should go first?”

Key social skill learning tips for your child

Learning an ‘emotional vocabulary’ to be able to increase social skills is important for the development of children. Such as: we feel more than just happy and sad, it’s important to discuss different emotions and how we might express these in situations where we feel them.

Take a ‘smart guess’ using visual information like:

  • Encourage children to look so they don’t miss key information. Such as: if everyone is putting on shoes and socks that might indicate we should too.
  • Encourage children to listen to what is going on around them. Such as: are other people talking or is the room quiet?
  • Encourage children to think about what other people’s plans may be. Such as: this might be different from our plan to play with a toy, but the rest of the group might want a different game.

‘Social thinking’
is being able to identify the feelings of others as well as yourself and understanding we all have our own thoughts, plans and feelings but other people do as well and sometimes those may be different from ours, like:

  • The need to identify the group plan when we are in a group situation
  • When the group plan is different from ours, we might feel frustrated or disappointed
  • How do we deal with these emotions?
  • How can we communicate to the group?

‘Eye contact and body language’
is understanding that people feel more comfortable when they’re having a conversation with you if you’re looking at each other, for example:

  • If we aren’t looking at someone who is talking, this means we’re not interested
  • If we have moved our body away from the group this shows disinterest.
  • Understanding how this might make others feel is a key social learning tip.

7 important ways parents can help

  1. Model appropriate social behaviours and talk about what you are doing
  2. Discuss how particular actions might make people feel
  3. Support child to learn skills such as sharing and helping others
  4. Talk about how people might use body language or expressions on their face to say how they are feeling and what they are thinking
  5. Use an emotion board to discuss these feelings further
  6. Explain the links and differences between feelings and behaviours, for example when we’re excited or happy we might clap out hands and when we’re frustrated or angry, we don’t throw our toys
  7. Play games and use toys to build and work through each of these things

We hope these tips were helpful and we look forward to you reaching out with any questions if you have them.

Occupational Therapy For Children: Influencing Lives | Creating Possibilities | Making a Difference

We’d love you to contact us at OTFC

OTFC is a South Australian clinic-based service that is centrally located and services children and adolescents from birth through to 21 years of age both locally and nationally. Dedicated to providing a client focused approach where children and families feel validated in their concerns, supported in difficult times, encouraged to be proactive and inspired to facilitate change.


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