Apart from worrying about their children’s academic performance in school, parents often fret about whether they can make (and keep) good friends.
For our children to thrive in school, EQ is as important as IQ, particularly as they grow older and start to face more peer pressure.
So, what can we do to equip our children with the social skills they need to make friends and engage in pro-social behaviour from an early age?
Be their role model
Good manners need to be instilled in children right from the onset. Children are by nature, self-centered and if not taught, they will not want to take turns, play nicely or mind their Ps and Qs.
It is crucial for parents to know that the rules of social interaction are both caught and taught. If we want our children to engage in pro-social behaviours, such as queuing up, taking turns and sharing, we first need to model these behaviours at home and outside.
For example, if we expect our kids to queue up for their turn at the slide, we should also be modelling patience in our daily attitudes and behaviour. Our children are more likely to follow what we do, than what we say.
Give them space to learn
Avoid hovering over our children when they play and becoming overprotective. Instead, give our children space and freedom to learn how to handle and resolve their own conflicts.
Mothers are more likely to rush to our children’s aid, compared to fathers. We tend to step in whenever we see our children being bullied or mistreated at the playground.
Instead of rescuing them from every tricky situation, adopt a sit-and-wait approach. If there is no real danger posed to our children or others, we should observe the situation first.
We can then assess if our children know what to do when they are being bullied, for example, and take steps to discuss the strategies available to them should a similar situation occur in the future.
Make full use of playdates
Playdates are great opportunities for our children to bond with other children and pick up social skills.
The school holidays offer plenty of opportunities to set up playdates for our children. The time spent with a smaller group of friends can also help our children to get to know some of their classmates a bit better, making the return to school after a long break much easier.
Celebrate their uniqueness
If you have two or more children, you’d know by now that they have very different personalities.
It may help to take their personalities and preferences into consideration when organising playdates. While one might utterly enjoy himself playing with many children at a time, the other may be more comfortable playing with just 1 or 2 other kids.
If you are hosting the playdate at home, remind them of the importance of being a good friend or host, and set clear expectations of how they can help their friends feel at home. Simple gestures such as showing friends where the bathroom is, or helping to serve snacks at snack-time go a long way to inculcate good social habits in our young.
Written by Sarah Chua.
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