It’s time for your child’s social skills to flourish! You might find yourself standing back and looking at your child in wonder, not quite sure at which point they grew up and stepped into all that self-confidence. It is a delight to see our school-aged children grow in their friendships and see how they navigate the social world of school.
For many children, this is the first time that they are venturing into social situations without you. They are now expected to mix and work alongside their peers in a classroom setting.
Social skills are the skills we use daily to interact and get along with others. They are the ways we talk, play and work together that facilitate communication and underpin our relationships.
What social skills will your 5-6-year-old develop?
By now, your child will be telling full stories, including main characters and a sequence of events that you can follow.
They will be polishing up their insults and will be beginning to make threats. Your family may be in for quite a ride as sibling interactions can quickly heighten.
Your child is developing a strong awareness of others and will begin to offer praise for others, e.g. “Well done” and “Good job.”
They are starting to make promises such as “I promise I'll do it later” and “I promise I’ll be good.”
This is the fun age when your child will begin to understand wordplay and puns.
They will start to ask about the meaning of words.
You might find that your child is asking questions to gain specific information.
Your child will be keen to take steps to independence, like making purchases at a shop.
They will choose their own friends and gravitate towards their preferred friendship circles.
There will be more cooperation in play, and your child will engage in making group decisions and assigning roles in play. In addition, they will be concerned about fair play.
At this developmental stage, your child will be more keenly aware of others and will take more care in how they communicate with unfamiliar people. As a result, some of those family secrets may be safe again.
You will find that your child’s conversation may be easier to follow, as your child will now be aware that they need to let their listeners know when they are changing topics.
How can you help your child develop their social skills?
Spend time modelling good social skills. Let your child see how you interact with others.
Start coaching them on their social skills.
Talk them through situations and help them to understand what worked well.
Give them positive feedback, e.g. “I loved the way I heard you ask Sam what he wanted to do”, “You were really kind to the neighbour, I love the way you listened to them speaking about their holiday”, or “Great story! I love the adventure your character went on. Can I help you remember the story so you can tell grandma?”
Talk them through a situation and help them to understand what didn’t work out so well, e.g. “I know you wanted to play your game with Sam. I’m sorry he said no. How about you ask Sam what he would like to play?”
Practise telling stories together. You can start by retelling stories you read in books or see on t.v.
Give your child small interactive tasks to stretch their independence. Coach them on what to say and how to say it beforehand to set them up for success
Keep up the role-playing games. Expanding scenarios will help your child practise a whole range of social interaction skills.
Use role-play to prepare your child for new situations
Talk about books, movies, t.v. shows together, specifically discuss characters' actions, reactions and interactions. What happened? How are the characters feeling? Why did it happen? Did it work? What could the character have said or done differently?
Talk about what it is to act and treat others with kindness
You may find it is still helpful to coach your child on how to give appropriate displays of affection - who it’s ok to show affection to, how to show it appropriately, how long is an appropriate hug etc.
Play games and involve the whole family.
Model how to negotiate play rules with friends
Practise. A lot.
Why worry about social skills?
Social skills are essential for engaging appropriately with others. They affect our conversations and interactions with others during work, play, in the classroom and in social settings. Social skills are crucial for building all levels of relationships.
Children and adults who find it challenging to understand pragmatic language and navigate interactions may have difficulties:
Building relationships in the community, such as in sporting groups
Developing working relationships
Collaborating with others at work or school
Responding appropriately during interactions with family, friends and unfamiliar people
Developing an understanding and awareness of social expectations in given situations and mastering the appropriate social skills
They may be perceived as rude or inappropriate.
What to do next?
Check out our related blogs for more information about social skill development in adults and children.
If you are concerned that your child is not developing social skills, it’s never too early or too late to chat with a speech pathologist. We can ease your mind about your child’s abilities and create a tailor-made plan to support them in developing their social skills.