| by Thuy Truong, M.A. Ed., TPT Teaching and Coaching, 10/14/2020|
I was one of those kids who loved to hang out with my grandmother. Who wouldn’t love the warmth of scintillating conversations, intriguing stories, and always having good things to eat? Wait, but there was so much more. My grandmother sometimes would recite poetry until I fell asleep, and in my childhood imagination, she was like an ethereal, gentle being who never yelled (but when she does, it’s over). Wait, there was more. The reason why I found it fascinating as a young person to listen to our family debates with other adults in our extended family was because it let me have a glimpse of the adult world with juicy details that showed people’s vulnerabilities as well as a rich tapestry of multigenerational perspectives. Chewing on the smooth, delicate mooncakes under the moon as a nine year old, I would hear phrases like: “It was an arranged marriage; she bluffed about running away to deter her father’s effort.” Or, “It was sad to see how her father turned out, but he did not treat people well.” And the ever dramatic phrase that always dropped like a pendulum of reminder: “In the end, you reap what you sow.” I adored these thunderous truths that I heard both as thrilling and thought-provocative social commentaries. It had taught me the importance of observation through conversations. It even taught me the simple truth that if I really pay attention to someone I might even learn something new and precious about life so I can face life confidently because I have a strong moral compass that lights my path. It also made me become more familiar with people’s moods, feelings, and perceptions as I grew up and entered the workforce.
While homeschooling takes place, it is worthwhile to find meaningful ways to activate your child’s social skills so they can enjoy the sacred beauty of human conversations and the power of observation, the art of reading between the lines, which is a foundational pillar to all excellent social skills. Here are three practical ways to foster your child’s social skills during the online learning stage:
Practice Deep Listening and Concentration
Social skills are ultimately about listening and reading people in order to produce an appropriate response based on the situation at hand. Well, how can you read someone if you are not completely present in the moment while engaging with them? Deep listening forces the student to go outside their perspective and actually comprehend a point of view that is different from their own. If you listen, you can pick up on the intangible, elusive clues that lurk below the surface dialogue like their voice intonation, cadences in their speech, overall mood and so much more. Then, these valuable pieces of information would teach the child to know what would be the next logical step after surveying the current state of things in the present moment. Though listening may sound too simple to be potent over time, but in truth, it is deeply complex (because social skills are complex in nature) and every time a child rediscovers a truth by listening, their critical thinking skills maximize into the next level. This is the golden nugget of social skills: Reading people, understanding them, and producing the best course of action.
Increase Family Conversations and Bonding Time
Quarantine can make us all feel a bit isolating, but you can show your kids that organic joy can be found inside the home too. It is not always about where we are, but it is about how we are. By creating more family activities and enjoying each others’ company, your child has a consistent, tangible opportunity to practice social skills afforded by face-to-face contact with other human beings outside their Zoomified world and it brings a nice balance between the world of automation and the sheer novelty of actual human presence. If you worry that your child will be short on social skills in the long run due to online learning, you can mindfully immerse your child in weekly in-person activities with family members so your child has the real opportunity to practice precious social skills like listening to react with quick wit, sharing intellectual humor, and savoring all the invisible joy of human interaction live in real minutes with real lessons. I understand parents can be short on minutes nowadays due to multiple obligations, but building in social time within the family can be done with thoughtful conversations during weekly hikes or a family debate on a favorite tv show during dinnertime, or you can link it to other activities that already preexist in your family routines. Quality over quantity should lead the way.
Execute Organic Communication Methods
One of the key components to having keen social skills is the child’s ability to articulate clearly theirs and others’ perceptions in all situations. True communication skills mean a person is able to contemplate two different thoughts at the same time and choose the one that is most appropriate for the occasion without hindrance of bias. Perspective-taking is a crucial skill in academic success as it is in achieving social skills magic because it is laced with critical thinking skills required for thinking on your feet during various social interactions. By practicing a wide array of communication methods, the student will learn to refine and target a specific mode of communication for each unique occasion. Below are different avenues of communication that will boost social skills:
Writing holiday cards and personal letters to grandparents and relatives
Keeping a personal diary (writing to yourself sharpen thought organization and expand personal perspective)
Engaging in a family debate or town hall meeting over vital issues as mentioned before (it is about creating teachable moments for the child to apply social skills)
Calling places to inquire about services like the public library, restaurants, stores etc.
Perhaps, the most important lesson for students to learn when it comes to social skills is the ability to see things from multiple perspectives enabling them to anticipate the other person’s future reaction while enriching their own humanity by cultivating human connections with other people. Social skills over time will strengthen students’ social imagination and cognitive resiliency as they are exposed to and constantly having to adapt to new ideas from many people. In the end, social skills allow the student to understand more about who they are by understanding more about other people. The learning is in the pure discovery of how others are different from us and letting that difference enrich the galaxies of our minds.