How Can I Help My Kids Develop Social Skills?


Parents often ask me questions about their kids’ development such as; is my kid talking appropriately for their age and are they mastering life skills as they need to be. However, one area many parents skip right over is their kids’ social development.

Social skills, like sharing toys or having independent conversations with others, are the building blocks of friendships.

Not every kid develops social skills at a quick and easy pace. It can be hard for parents to figure out whether their kids are on a good track socially or not. Even if parents recognize that their kids are struggling socially, they may not know exactly what to do next or how to help.

Summer can be a great time to focus on being social and connecting with others.

If your kid seems shy or is struggling to make or keep friends here are several ways you can help them to increase their social skills and their network of friends.

  • Empathize, then problem solve. It can be tempting to immediately jump into problem-solving when you see your kid struggling to make or keep friends. Try to help them recognize how they’re feeling and then empathize with them before helping them. Try saying things like “it sounds like you are feeling nervous” or “that sounds like a really frustrating situation”. Once your child feels heard and understood, they will be more likely to open up and feel ready to problem solve how to handle a stressful situation.
  • Practice, practice, practice.  The first place that kids learn social skills is at home with you! Kids learn how to handle a variety of social situations by watching how you handle things. Make it a point to model the social skills you’d like to see in your kids. Say hi to others, asks lots of questions, talk about how different people perceive the same situation, and always look others in the eye. You can even make a game of it by role-playing different situations they might find themselves in or specific interactions they struggle with. Take turns acting out scenarios like asking someone to play on the playground or talking to another about hurt feelings. Having a good idea of what to do will help kids feel confident and sure of themselves socially.
  • Give them opportunities to succeed socially. Be proactive and organize play dates for your kids. If possible, find activities that allow you to watch them socialize with others and look for areas they may need a little help navigating. Socializing on play dates where it is more one on one, is way more forgiving than socializing in a large group at school. If your kid has a particular interest or hobby; camps or other activities where they can meet others with similar interests can be helpful too.
  • Have fun with them! Summer can’t be all work….you have to have some fun too. Research shows that playing regularly with your kids helps them to develop more advanced social skills and get along better with others. Create a family game night and play something on their level or of their choosing. What a fun family tradition to start over summer!

Written By: Laura Lebovitz, LMFT