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April 22, 2017

Sophie Miller

Fostering Life Skills Without Home Ec: Social Skills

Topics: Learning Through Play

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This post is the second installment in a series covering life skills that are disappearing as our world technologically advances.  As young adults find themselves struggling to learn self-care, social, and financial skills later in life, there is now a demand for such workshops and classes at the college-level.  In some instances, technology has also created a need for new life skills that weren’t essential before.  In this series, we will explore our top life skills and how your child can master them through fun activities.  To follow this series, please subscribe to our blog and follow us on social media.

Today more than ever it may be difficult for children to learn social skills. We spend so much time connecting with other people, but often we do so over technological interfaces that render many old-school social norms useless or outdated. Additionally, many institutions, from schools to families themselves, have done away with some of the more archaic etiquette lessons that they feel do not apply to their kids. Many of these dismissals are a good thing – few parents nowadays believe, for instance, that their kids are to be seen and not heard! But wouldn’t you like for your child to have a basic understanding of different social skills, so that they can be put to use, if not at your house, then in a context where they might be required? Below find some easy steps to helping your kids learn those harder-to-grasp social skills.

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Etiquette

While some people believe etiquette is a thing of the past, it never hurts to learn the rules. Many parents wait until their child performs a “bad” behavior, and then hopes that a “don’t do that!” will suffice for the next time. But it is important, especially with younger kids, for children to practice these behaviors – especially before they are put in a situation where it is crucial that they perform them. If you have the time to do so, instead of saying, “don’t do that,” repeat the situation with the child performing the task correctly, whether it’s not grabbing something or being asked to be excused from the table. Keep repeating until they have gotten it correct – and that includes without attitude.

Playing Well with Others

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People will disagree: this is a given. But sometimes, especially when one or both members in a conflict are children, these disagreements can escalate into full-blown tantrums or fights. One tip on resolving conflict, between siblings or otherwise, comes from author Lisa Whelchel, who found it helpful to point out the inconsistencies between each of her kids’ versions of their stories. “When this happens, I restrict them to the same room until they can come up with one version of the story. This forces them to think about the events that actually occurred” and face up a bit to the ways in which each of them could have treated the other better, ultimately teaching empathy.

Stress Management

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These days, our kids are learning from a young age the critical nature of putting in hard work. Even preschoolers are rushed from school to a series of afterschool activities and exercises in hopes of being academically and extracurricularly competitive. But studies have found that kids develop better in a number of ways, particularly socially, if free time is incorporated into their schedules. Free play, in particular, allows children room to explore different emotions and social dynamics without the stakes of reality, and ultimately learn how to deal with these different situations. For more information on the benefits of free play and recess, check out this post on our blog!

Basic Manners

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While etiquette is comprised of a set of rules that, while useful to know, may no longer apply in many situations, basic manners are the behaviors that ultimately will teach your kid to think kindly and fairly. A great way to teach a child anything is to give them a stake in it, so that they understand why they are being asked to perform a certain action. Games can be a great experimental zone in which to start teaching kids basic manners. For younger kids, board games can teach the abstract idea of rules and gives them opportunities to practice following rules. As they get older, they can think about sportsmanship and how it feels when another player is a sore winner – or a sore loser.

Of all the skills that our kids can learn, social skills are arguably the most important. There are very few life paths that remain unchanged by how we interact with other people and make them feel. And kids can grow into happier, more productive adults by learning how to interact with other people as well as their own emotional selves. For more life lessons for kids, check out our next installment in the Life Skills series!

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