Learning Social Skills

I was recently asked by a friend what would help her son develop his social skills.  We talked for a bit and here are the ideas I shared:

  • Vocabulary – To begin a dialogue on social skills your son or daughter needs to know and use words like feeling, thinking, expectation, intention, reaction, meltdown, repair? All these vocabulary words, and more, will be needed if you are going to talk about interactions with people. Enlist their cooperation by using a team approach. Be a coach or mentor to help them improve their social interactions.
  • Social interaction autopsy – Take the time to take apart the event and look at what went wrong. Social interactions happen quickly, and your child can miss things that seem obvious to you. (Remember you are older, more mature and more experienced. Your child is not, yet.) Tell him what you observed. Can your kid see in other situations when he offends someone? Help him to look at, and remember, this when someone offends him. If he doesn’t see his behavior having an affect on others, yet, try this in reverse. Help him to identify when he feels bad, or good, with another’s behavior. Discuss it and give your child time to think about it.
  • Practice – set up the situation and have him practice new skills. If he gets a gift that is awful, he can practice saying “This is thoughtful of you. Thank you for giving me a gift,” instead of saying whatever he thinks without regard to the other’s feelings.
  • Learning social skills takes time. Be patient. Everyone learns at their own pace. As long as he’s moving forward, this is success. It may seems like it’s taking a long time, just keep trying.  You’ll be glad you did. Many social thinking resources are available.  I like Ted Baker’s and Michelle Garcia Winner’s books and materials for teens and young adults.

Also it’s probably better to talk side-by-side, both you and your child facing the same way. This approach gives the nonverbal message of acceptance and cooperation.  Do this by taking a walk, driving in a car, or sitting side by side.