Did you have to work hard at making friends and keeping friends? Do you usually make a good first impression or do you find yourself feeling akward in social settings or regretting what you said moments after it came out of your mouth? Social skills are hard work for many people. What may be common sense for you and I, is a skill that your child might not have. It may be a concept they do not understand, or would have never thought about.
Conversations can be tricky. Your facial expression, your tone, and pace all need to be considered. Do you know what to say next, can you catch the cues the other person is interested? If you don’t smile because your nervous or speak too loudly because you’re heated about a topic, it can send the wrong message. Social skills are give and take. You have to respond to the other person, it can’t be one sided.
Things to think about when engaing with others:
- Do I look interested? Am I approcable? Am I smiling?
- Remember to pause and wait for the other person to speak as well
- Don’t interrupt
- Ask the other person about themselves.
- Know the other person’s name
- Are you open minded? Can you tolerate someone else disagreeing with you or having a difference of opinion?
- Body talk: are you looking down or have your arms crossed?
- Personal space. Don’t stand too close.
- Pay attention. Be interested.
- Ask questions
- Is the other person interested, do they appear engaged in your conversation?
Why do people struggle?
1. Shy temperament
2. Social anxiety
3. Haven’t been taught, don’t have the skills naturally.
4. Poor executive functioning skills (see chart below). Can’t wait their turn, impulsive, emotional control, rigid thinker.
5. Poor perception, difficulty reading social cues.
6. Lack of practice and opportunity to social situations.
7. Can’t follow through appropriately, so feel it “doesn’t work”.
How to help:
1.Understand what your child needs help with
2. Teach the skill
3. Talk about situations that didn’t go well and brain storm how to do it a better way.
4. Be a good role model, children learn what they live.
5. Plan ahead: what are conversation starters? What do you do when things don’t go as planned.
6. Practice! Work on it at home first.
7. Have playdates at home to see how the skills are being used. Be close by, but don’t jump in too quickly.
Children with ADHD don’t get social skills fully until the teen years.
They will get there with encouragement, practise and a lot of patience. It may take time.
Social skills are vital to a fulfilling life. It’s worth the time you put into helping your child learn how to interact and fit in with others.