There are several steps parents can take to improve their child's social skills.
Enjoying others will come more naturally when a child is doing something they are genuinely interested in. Whether it's participating in a favourite sport, playing an instrument they like or being part of a club they're interested in, this is the first step toward building social skills. It also places a child around like-minded individuals that the child will probably feel more at ease with. While it's important to be able to socialise with those of varying interests, starting out with other children who like the same things is an excellent way to more easily build social skills.
Sometimes when children get nervous or a conversation lags, they may become more introverted and ultimately struggle in future social situations. There are several ways children can initiate and carry on positive conversations with others. One important way is to ask questions. The best way to find out about others and form connections is to ask questions to the person the child is talking with. Encourage your child to ask questions that can't be answered with just a yes or no.
Pretend-play, with both younger and older children, is a great way for kids to actively practice their social skills. Don't forget to include body language, such as smiling and making eye contact, when advising your child.
If children have a better understanding of how others feel, they are much more likely to feel connected to other people and form positive bonds. Ask how other people might feel when different things happen. Part of teaching empathy is to help children learn how to actively listen to others. This involves focusing on what others are saying and then thinking about what the speaker has said once the conversation is over.
Some children are simply more social than others. A child who is shy and introverted should not be expected to interact in the same way as a child who is naturally outgoing. Some children are comfortable in large settings, while others find it easier to relate to their peers when in smaller groups. It's also important to understand a child's time limits. Younger children and those with special needs may only feel comfortable socialising for an hour or two.
It's important to be consciously aware of how you interact with others when your child is watching. Are you asking questions of others and then taking the time to actively listen? Do you show genuine empathy for friends and family in your life? Children are constantly watching the adults in their lives.
It's important to remember that it will take time for your child to develop good social skills. Social skills are something that are developed and improved upon over a lifetime.