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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, March 23, 2006

Help child develop social skills

By Scott Miyagi

The relationships children form with their peers are important to their development it is how children learn to make new friends, participate in group problem-solving, and manage conflict and competition. For some, though, social skills can be difficult. Approximately 10 percent of children face social problems at school. Here are a few tips to help your child deal with social issues.

  • Acknowledge the problem. No matter how obvious their problems might be, to avoid pain and embarrassment, children often will deny they are having social problems. Getting your child to acknowledge the issue is the first step toward improving the situation. Take the time to identify your child's difficulties. Ignoring a problem behavior can tell a child that you think the behavior is acceptable. Stay calm and positive so your child does not feel insecure or ashamed.

  • Discuss and describe the problem. Once you identify the problem, take action to help your child overcome his or her difficulties and explain them in terms your child will understand. To a child these problems are complex and demanding. Social skills can be learned, so be optimistic.

  • Change the way your child thinks about his or her actions. Teach your child to think of his or her behavior in terms of action and consequence. For example, explain that it is not nice to tease other children because it makes the other child feel sad. Remind your child to always treat others as he or she would like to be treated. Teaching your child to be kind and sensitive to the feelings of others will help them grow into outgoing, socially adept adults.

  • Identify alternative behavior. Because children are still developing social skills, they are often unprepared to resolve a conflict situation. For example, if your child tries to resolve conflicts by hitting other children, point out more socially acceptable ways of handling the same situation, such as walking away or ignoring the aggressor. A parent is a child's biggest role model. How you interact with others is something every child notices. The behavior you model will be the behavior they exhibit.

  • Changing behavior takes time. Relate your child's current problem, and its solution, to circumstances he or she may face in the future. Remind your child that social skills will come with practice, observation and discussion.

  • Don't know what to do? Call your school counselor. Counselors deal with these challenges daily, and have a range of interventions that can help you. Forming a partnership with your counselor can help to support behavior changes at home and in school.

    This column is provided through the Hawai'i State Teachers Association. Scott Miyagi is a counselor at Mililani Uka Elementary School.