Let's talk about what specific skills kids need to be socially competent during communication. Social communication consists of:
- Social interaction (e.g., knowing how to cooperate with peers, social reasoning, conflict resolution, social rules for politeness)
- Social Cognition (e.g., ability to take perspective of another and adjust language for each situation, expressing and regulation emotions, executive function - organizing/planning/attention/problem solving)
- Pragmatics: Verbal and Nonverbal (e.g., initiating and maintaining a conversation, taking turns in conversation, appropriate body language/facial expressions/eye contact)
- Language processing: Expressive and Receptive (e.g., understanding and expressing spoken and written language, knowledge and use of vocabulary and correct word order in sentences, use of phonological skills for reading and spelling)
As your child's first and most important example of social communication, here's what YOU can do to give your child their best start:
1. Practice excellent eye contact, starting from birth. In other words, put down the tech devices, turn away from the TV or computer and pause your conversation with someone else. Pick up, kneel down or turn towards your child and look at your child in the eyes - while you listen and while you speak.
2. Provide daily opportunities for PLAY! Most opportunities for social skill development of young kids happen through play. So - invite the neighbor kids over, join a playgroup, get to the park, go to the swimming pool, or sign up for a class that provides ample opportunities for your child to interact with his/her peers.
3. Encourage play items that promote social interaction. Dolls, blocks, dress-up clothes and trains typically provide more social interaction between kids than puzzles and paints.
4. Turn off devices. Video games and TV rarely provide positive examples of social communication and they do not provide any opportunity for kids to engage with peers and practice these skills. Establish specific times of the day (e.g., meal time, snack time, before bed, family time, etc.) when tech devices are put away and verbal communication between family members/friends is encouraged.
5. Model appropriate social communication. Kids imitate what they see, including how to start a conversation, how to allow others to take a turn during conversation, how to resolve conflict and how to say "I'm sorry."
6. Ask your child questions which allow them to express their ideas and how they feel. Here are links to some fun and thoughtful questions to ask:
Practicing good social communication with your children is not only beneficial for their development, but can be fun and increase family bonds. And you just might be surprised by what you learn about your child that you never knew before!