Social Skills

Social Skills

Written by: Joshua Blazen

When you enrolled your child in preschool or kindergarten, you may have wondered, “Will my child learn reading, writing and math at their new school?” But did you wonder how your child would learn social skills at school? In recent years, teaching social skills has become more of a focus for schools. To guide schools in supporting social skills for children from birth through 3rd grade, Washington State developed Early Learning and Development Guidelines. According to this resource, key social skills milestones include:

Young infants (birth – 11 months): smiling at others, noticing and copying others’ facial expressions, using noises and facial expressions to interact with others

Older infants (9 months – 18 months): following others’ gazes or pointing, laughing when others laugh, recognizing others and remembering their names

Toddlers (16 months- 3 years): playing turn-taking games, observing and imitating other children’s play, playing side-by-side with others

Early preschool (3-4 years): sharing and taking turns, playing pretend, reacting to others’ feelings, playing in groups with other children

Late preschool (4-5 years): connecting emotions to facial expressions, inviting other children to join activities, switching between an “indoor and outdoor voice”

Kindergarten: accepting new trusted adults (bus driver, teacher, etc.), respecting others’ personal space, resolving some conflicts without adult help 

1st grade: thinking about how their actions impact others, brainstorming and problem solving with others

2nd grade: noticing unfair situations, showing compassion and respect to others

3rd grade: noticing others’ differences in skills and abilities, resolving conflicts without adult help, recognizing that others have different opinions


Why are social skills important
Research has shown that helping young children build their social skills can lead to a decrease in behavior problems such as bullying, hitting and defiance. 
• Children are more likely to succeed in school when they can form friendships, get along with others and communicate their wants and feelings. 

How can I support my child’s social skills at home
• Have conversations
The best way to help your child to build social skills is talking to them! When you talk to your child, they learn the skills they need to have a back-and-forth conversation, such as listening, asking questions and waiting for a response. When your child is talking, give them eye contact and acknowledge what they say with a smile or a nod. Children learn how nonverbal communication contributes to conversation by watching us! 

• Let your child take the lead
When setting up playdates or planning activities for your child, leave some time for unstructured play when your child can take the lead. When children have the opportunity to explore their environment on their own terms, and set rules and expectations, they build confidence to brave new social situations.  

• Coach your child through social interactions
As adults, we often find ourselves speaking for our children by answering questions for them or solving conflicts between them and other children. Instead, we can help children find their voice by coaching them through these situations. When your child has a conflict with another child, encourage them to speak directly to the other child rather than to you. When your child asks you a question about another child, encourage them to ask that child directly instead of you. Some children will need more support than others before they start using these skills on their own, but practice makes perfect! 

• Talk about feelings
It’s important to teach and encourage your child to talk about their own feelings, and also to think about the feelings of others. When you see other children on TV, in books and in the community, you can teach your child to think about others’ feelings by making observations such as, “That child dropped their candy, and now they look sad” or asking questions such as, “How do you think that child feels right now?” Children who have better awareness of others’ feelings tend to have an easier time navigating social situations!

Additional Resources
Social skills resources for parents of children birth to age 3:
https://www.zerotothree.org/resources?

Social-Emotional Health and School Readiness: A Guide for Parents with Children Birth to Age 5 https://www.michigan.gov/documents/mde/social_emotional_282200_7.pdf

Do you have concerns about your child’s social skills? We have local social skills groups and resources: https://www.wallysplaygroups.com/LINKSOTHERRESOURCES.en.html

Tips for caregivers during the Stay Home, Stay Healthy Order

Tips for caregivers during the Stay Home, Stay Healthy Order

Written by: Jenn Vanetten

As a parent or caregiver during the Stay Home, Stay Healthy Washington State mandate, you may be confronting new challenges at home. You may be helping your child learn their math lessons, keeping them entertained with creative activities and helping them cope with the sudden changes in routine. Luckily, educators and professionals around the U.S. have been sharing free tools, activities and information to help! 

Here are a few situations that you may relate to and some tips and resources. 

Situation 1: Helping Children Understand and Rest
Arianna’s 5th birthday is next week. You began planning her birthday party before the Stay Home, Stay Healthy order. She was excited about having her friends and family invited over for a party that included a bouncy house in the front yard. These plans have now been canceled and Arianna cries every day because she won’t have her party or get to see her friends and family. 

How do you help your child understand and overcome difficult feelings during this time?
Make sure you recognize and validate any negative feelings about the situation. Let your child know that it is okay to be sad. Then, focus on the positives. For example, you get to spend more time as a family. Try to make more time for fun at home. If it’s fun for your child, it is probably going to be more fun for you!

Check out these resources for tips on talking to your child about the Stay Home, Stay Healthy order and help them cope with changes:
National Association of School Psychologists on helping kids cope with changes
National Public Radio on using comics with older children
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on stress and coping
Child Mind Institute on talking to kids

Situation 2: Setting a Schedule & Helping Children Learn
Jasmine and Juan both work outside the home, but now they both are working from home. They have three children, Arial (age 3), Brandon (age 5) and Adrian (age 10). Arial usually attends childcare, Brandon normally attends preschool and Adrian is in elementary school. Adrian’s classes are now online, while Brandon and Arial are not engaged in school.  

How do you and your partner balance two working schedules, monitor online classes and help all children stay engaged during the day?
Structure is key. A written daily schedule will provide your children with a sense of comfort and control and will allow you and your partner to “split shifts” (and get some work done). Some families may want to create their schedules day-by-day while others may prefer to stick to one daily routine. Which is the right way? Do what works best for you and your family! Just remember to be flexible and to collaborate with your kids during this process—even if it means scheduling an hour for “kids’ choice.”

Check out these links for more tips on creating a daily schedule with your family:
How long should learning lessons be for children in different grades
8 tips on working at home with children

Situation 3: Keeping Children Entertained and Active
As a single parent, you stay at home with your 4-year old daughter and 7-year old son. After several weeks of staying at home, they have played every game in the house at least 20 times and have become tired of their toys. The easiest solution for keeping them busy is television and electronic devices, but you feel guilty about that

How do you keep your children engaged and active?
Try to make time for a fun family activity at least once a day! It is most important to ask your children what they want to do. Encourage them to be creative with their ideas. This can be a great opportunity to help them expand their creative minds. The internet can also be a great tool for finding new activities:
Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) has a really cool website for access to age-appropriate activities for learning about science, math, arts, literacy, character, social skills and emotions
PBS will e-mail you daily suggestions for games and activities for free
The Seattle Times has ideas for easy activities with materials that are probably already in your house
Imagine has a YouTube page with art, science, music and math activities along with guest author and artist videos. Subscribe to be alerted to new posts. 

Check out these resources if you want more information about the Stay Home, Stay Healthy order and how to keep you and your family healthy:
CDC resources and guidelines
Public Health recommendations 
Washington State Department of Health resources and recommendations for parents and caretakers

Building Resiliency in Children

Building Resiliency in Children

Written by: Jenn Vanetten

Children may experience obstacles and stressors that are difficult to overcome. Test failure, bullying, loss or incarceration of a friend or family member or divorcing parents may be a few of the hardships that they could face. Although such adverse events are a negative life experience, they also provide opportunities for children to build the skills – or resiliency – they will need to bounce back from hard times. 

What is Resiliency
Resiliency develops in individuals as they learn to work through challenges and cope with life stress in a healthy manner; it is the ability to recover after times of difficult adjustment, painful losses or failures. Resilience is not a trait that individuals either do or do not have. It develops through experience. 

What Does Resiliency in Children Look Like?
• Children that are more resilient may persist to improve at an art or sport, while less resilient children may give up an activity when it is not going well.
More resilient children may earn a low grade on a test and work harder to understand the content while less resilient children may give up on learning the content. 
More resilient children may handle the loss of a loved one by grieving with family members, whereas less resilient children may isolate themselves and fall into deep sadness. 

Why is Resiliency Important?
Helping a child to develop resiliency earlier in their development will help them overcome obstacles and achieve their goals. 

Children with greater resiliency are more likely to:
• Succeed academically 
• Develop and maintain healthy relationships with peers and family
• Identify activities that bring enjoyment
• Overcome feelings of frustration and sadness

How can Adults Foster Resiliency in Children?
• Allow room for mistakes 
When a child is struggling to complete a task, it may seem easier to do it for them. Instead, let them attempt to do it on their own and praise their efforts rather than the completion of the task. This will help them to focus on the positive elements of difficult experiences. 
• Encourage independence
When a child falls down, make sure they are okay and then encourage them to pick themselves up. Soothe them if needed. Independence enhances a child’s confidence in their ability to overcome difficult experiences.  
• Show gratitude 
Consistently expressing emotions such as love and gratitude can help children to develop positive feelings toward others and life experiences. Children should be praised more often than they are criticized. 
• Express all emotions 
It is essential for children to learn how to label and express all emotions so they are better able to communicate how they feel in difficult times. It may be helpful to explain your feelings verbally to your child as well as your process for recovering emotionally.  
• Model a healthy lifestyle
Healthy eating habits, regular exercise and a good sleep routine all help fuel the body for being resilient in difficult times. Help children to develop healthy habits! 

For more ideas on how to foster resilience in children:
The Seven Ingredients of Resilience: Information for Parents
https://bit.ly/2xnjb1F