It seems as though screens have taken over human interaction—but our kids still need social skills to navigate life and the social experiences that come along with it. As a parent, I realized I was in the most ideal position to positively influence my kid’s social intelligence. I’ve spent countless hours a day, for their entire little lives, interacting with them, talking with them and sharing with them: through these seemingly mundane daily interactions, I’m teaching my children how to interact with others in our community.
Here are 12 ways I’ve found that help build social skills for my kids in the age of digital communication.
1. Model social skills.
My teenagers might not always listen to what I’m saying, but they definitely see the way I act. I’m sure to use words like “please” and “thank you.” I am to be polite and considerate to others—even when the opportunity for confrontation may arise. When I make a mistake, I apologize and take responsibility.
2. Be an engaged listener.
Sometimes our conversation are very one sided because I’m distracted by work or some kind of home project. But when my kids speak, I try hard to stop what I’m doing and listen. Instead of spewing my “wisdom” at them, I ask questions. This gives them an opportunity to go deeper into the topic and it also signals to them that they’re being heard.
3. Give pointers on the art of conversation.
To help my kids become brilliant conversationalists, I literally instruct them on useful communication tips: how to introduce yourself to someone, small talk topics, how to appropriately joke with others and how to even change the topic when something makes them uncomfortable!
4. Learn to identify body language and non-verbal cues in conversation.
This also includes helping my kids learn subtle nuances like voice intonations, facial expressions, body language and gestures.
5. Encourage self expression.
I try to give my children ample opportunities to speak for themselves and articulate their needs. They all have unique perspectives, ideas, desires and beliefs—and these need to be expressed. When we go out to dinner, I let them order for themselves and ask whatever questions they have to the waiter.
6. Allowing opportunities to practice social skills.
My kids get to book their own appointments, pick up groceries, and more. Why should my wife and I have to do all of these tasks by ourselves? Our kids can do them just fine and they get to practice having conversations with total strangers.
7. Engage in debate.
Debates are a great way of exposing kids to different points of view other than their own. This way, their opinions will be challenged. They can learn to control their temper with others while developing critical thinking skills.
8. Have regular dinner time.
Dinnertime provides a great opportunity for our family to engage with each other, exchange ideas and pass down traditions.
9. Role play for fun.
Everything from acting out tricky social situations like job interviews to asking someone on a date has helped my kids to manage their expectations and ease their nerves.
10. Practice formal writing skills.
Have you read a teens text messages lately? Boy, are they sloppy. To help them communicate with non-millennials, we’ve encourage our kids to write out their thoughts clearly and without slang and abbreviations. Now, they can write their own applications for college and job inquiries.
11. Provide opportunities for socialization.
We gently nudge our kids out of their comfort zones when we organize group activities with family friends. Our kids are all also involved in extra-curricular activities like basketball and ballet where they can interact with others.
12. Support your kids.
The goal of teaching social skills to our kids isn’t to win a popularity contest. We hope that with our help, they’ll be able to form meaningful relationships with others and have positive social interactions. Some kids are just naturally more socially adept than others and that’s okay! Being patient and giving our kids the support they need will help them to develop great social skills for their futures.