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How to improve and maintain your child's social skills ahead of the new school year

With the time away from school caused by the coronavirus crisis, your kids might feel like all their Christmases have come at once (especially since we’re into the six-week holidays!). However, for all the time away from school, they have still missed out on an important chunk of their education. If your child starts at a new school in September for example, they may have a little catching up to do - especially when it comes to socialising. 

Importantly, teachers are well-equipped to make sure pupils are fully caught up with their syllabus, especially with the use of remote learning tools in lockdown. What teachers can’t help with as much are the social learning aspects - this is where parents come in. 

How can I improve my child’s social skills after lockdown?

If you feel that your child has missed out on some of the social aspects of their education, you’re not alone asking this question. According to a Senior Lecturer in Psychology at the University of Kent, one of the biggest challenges of lockdown has been children missing their friends.

In this blog, we’re going to advise how you can maintain and even improve your child’s social skills ahead of the new school year. Take a look!

Take your kids on a virtual field trip

At school, the field trip is a standout event for most pupils and there’s a high chance that they missed out this year. Not only are field trips an opportunity for learning, they’re also a chance to spend time with friends outside of school which, as you can imagine, sets them up for socialising in later life. 

Your solution is a virtual field trip. Now, this sounds like a few hours on Google Maps but we absolutely promise it’s not. Most museums and educational facilities are hosting virtual tours, including Westminster Abbey, the British Museum, and even the Louvre in Paris. With instant messaging and video sharing, your kids can chat with friends while enjoying their virtual trip.

Spend time with your kids not as parents as such, but as peers

Your children will miss spending time with friends, whether that’s on the playground or in the classroom. It helps if you switch off from parent mode for a little while and spend time with your children as their peers would. Don’t be afraid to get messy! Embrace your inner child, get creative and use your imagination. Most importantly: have fun! 

Socialise online (but only in moderation)

Video calls can help to fill in the gaps where your child has missed socialising, but remember that video calls aren’t what they are used to. At best, adults tolerate video calls so a child simply won’t stick with it for too long. Brief video chats with their friends will help remind your child that everyone is in the same situation, which helps normalise the whole thing. 

Get outside in the fresh air

If, in lockdown, your child hasn’t been getting the same amount of outside time that they would in school then they’ll definitely miss out on that. It’s a massive boost to their mood (and yours) if you get outside for a little while. Whether that’s in your back garden or on a safe and socially distanced walk, getting outside makes lockdown feel less like being stuck in the house. Getting your kids out and about benefits everyone!

Encourage communication

Lockdown has been difficult for all of us, adults included. It’s important that your children can voice how they feel about lockdown and, without getting too serious about it, the future. Get them excited about being able to go on holiday again, or seeing their friends. Having something to look forward to makes the whole situation seem a little more normal! It’s important that your children can voice their concerns or fears, and that can take the form of chatting or even a ‘lockdown journal’. 

What are the most important social skills?

Now that you have a few recommendations, it helps to know exactly what social skills will help your child adjust to new situations once the school year begins. Here are some of the most important and valuable social skills for your child.

  • Working with others. Cooperative learning is always prioritised on school syllabuses because it’s vital for development now and for your child’s future. If you fear that in lockdown your child hasn’t worked on cooperative skills, simply set up some tasks that rely on collaboration either with yourselves or siblings. Listening skills are vital in this area.
  • Good hygiene. Important now more than ever, handwashing will be a regular part of school once the new year begins, so make sure that your children are more than familiar with having to do it. 
  • Politeness. Encouraging politeness in children can be difficult at times, but it’s so important. Instilling the idea of a ‘social filter’ is a good start: certain words will hurt a child’s feelings, while politeness communicates kindness.
  • Holding a conversation. Many think that conversational skills are built later in teenage years but the foundation begins much earlier. Encourage conversation with your child and the idea that it’s not a one-way street - your child should take an interest in what their friend is saying.
  • Win as well as they lose. A bad winner is the same as a bad loser! Teach your child to be a gracious loser and a respectful winner, and it’ll be a very valuable lesson.
  • Handle fights or disagreements. Squabbling and disagreements are part and parcel of childhood, but it’s important that it doesn’t lead to a complete breakdown of friendships. Encourage level-headedness and clear thinking with your child (it may be easier said than done but it’s worth it!).
  • Joining in with others. Before your kids can work on their collaborative skills, they should be confident in actually joining in with others. Whether it’s asking to be part of something, or how they react to invitations, ‘joining in’ is a fundamental social skill.
  • Sharing. Not being able to share is an almost instant indicator of childlike behaviour, so to ensure your child can prepare for the new school year they need to have mastered sharing.
  • Non-verbal skills. These are absolutely essential because so much can be said without a word being spoken. Teach your child to become familiar with facial expressions, body language, and gestures.
  • Compassion. This is relevant to every previous social skill, and ultimately will set your child in good stead for the future. Compassion and caring are vital because it allows children to relate to the situations of others and step out of their own shoes. 

Preparing for the new school year

With the above lessons in hand, your child will start the new school year brimming with confidence. If you’re looking for some toys that will facilitate this, look no further than the cheap toys on offer at Toys For A Pound. From boys toys to girls toys and everything in between, you’re spoilt for choice. Our games and puzzles section will help to get your child’s brain in gear before school starts!

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