One of the greatest struggles that all of us experience in our life is how to get along and interact with those around us. For young people and teens, problems in this area leave them with deficits in functioning with others. What happens in this case is that children are unable to make themselves feel understood, feelings of hostility or anger, and a sense of unimportance. If children do not learn these social skills as children what they are left with as adults is the inability to function in their life and in their workplace. None of us lives in a box without having to relate and interact with those around us. Unfortunately, much of the decline in social skills stems from the decline of interaction between family members as a result of time children spend playing video games, listening to music, and watching television. These particular activities that children engage in does NOT require social interaction. If social skills are not practiced then they can not be adequately developed.
The skills necessary for effective social interaction between children are the following abilities: listening, cooperating, communicating, sharing, empathasizing, and negotiating. The very foundation of these skills is listening to one another. This means the ability to initiate and maintain a meaningful exchange of perceptions. In other words, we need to teach our children what others are saying from their point of view. What inhibits the development of these skills is a lack of respect for others perceptions and feelings.
The keys to success for developing interpersonal skills in children are the following:
1. Practice dialogue with them that is respectful and considers other’s feelings.
2. Teach children to become skillful in listening, empathizing, and negotiating/sharing with others.
3. Practice different social situations with them and practice over and over to make sure they are interacting with other children appropriately in different situations. Their efforts will be successful and unsuccessful but continue to encourage them.
The best practice by far to teach children appropriate and effective social skills is to have meaningful interactions and family time when they are at home after school. If their entire evening is spent in front of the television set or playing video games, these necessary skills will never become part of their everday life.