By Donna Shea & Nadine Briggs
There are many different social skills curriculums out there. There are board games, worksheets, role plays, and thousands of tools to help teach social-emotional skills to kids. These tools are super helpful in getting the information into a child’s knowledge base. Kids who come to our social groups can quote us chapter and verse the correct answer to what they “should” do in any given social scenario or situation.
So why do kids, armed with all this excellent knowledge, still experience social difficulties or even failures? These days, there isn’t a socially struggling child that hasn’t had some formal social skills training or participated in a lunch bunch at school. Even we as parents have talked ad nauseam to our kids about the shoulds and should nots of socializing and friendships.
In solving this disconnection between learning and application, kids need to put their knowledge into action under the guidance of an experienced social coach. If kids could translate their knowledge to the playground or recess on their own, they would have by now. What is more helpful to a child is catching them in the moment of when the actual application of a specific skill is required. It is putting kids into real-time peer situations and helping them connect the social dots of action to consequence (positive and negative). It is pointing out to a child what the coach sees as apparent – as any coach (soccer, etc.) would do to help a child improve their skills.
Kids also need to be encouraged to but the social skill into action through thinking it through themselves. Questions such as, “what should you try?” or “what could you do now?” will go much further to help kids generalize skills than merely telling them what to do.
So yes, your child may “know” a lot about social skills, but not yet be able to apply that knowledge when and where it’s needed. Like any other skillset or something you want to improve on, practice makes better.