What Are The Benefits Of Social Skills Groups For Children?

Social skills groups for children

Kids often struggle with social interactions, and without a little guidance some kids may miss out on understanding social cues, participating in activities or initiating play.

Expert-led social skills groups offer kids a safe environment to learn and practice interaction skills. These skills not only help in making friends and excelling in school, but they also pave the way for future success.

This article dives into the significance of these groups, the lessons they offer, and ways parents can assist. By the end, you'll understand how these groups boost your child's social confidence.

What are social skills groups for children?

Social skills groups for children are small, structured gatherings that typically consist of two to eight participants. These groups are led by an adult, often a teacher or a therapist, who guides the children in learning how to interact appropriately with others of their age.

The aim of these groups is to help children acquire and practice essential life skills such as speech and conversational abilities, friendship-building techniques, turn-taking and problem-solving strategies.

Are social skills groups beneficial for children?

These groups are particularly beneficial for children who may have difficulty picking up on social cues, coping with stressful situations, or understanding social norms. Through various exercises and role-play scenarios, the group facilitator helps the children learn and practice the skills needed to navigate social situations effectively.

Research confirms the effectiveness of social skills training. A meta-analytic study of 43 studies confirmed that when independent therapeutic efforts incorporate different training techniques, like social skills groups, children saw significant improvement in their levels of social interaction, sociometric status (i.e., the degree to which the child is liked or disliked by their peers) and cognitive-problem solving skills.

Another study found that when fifth graders participated in a treatment group focused on improving social interactions, they made significant gains in sociometric and self-perception metrics.

Social skills groups for children can be held in-person, but online social skills groups are also gaining in popularity due to their convenience and accessibility. These online platforms offer a safe and convenient space for children to learn and practice social skills.

What do children learn in social skills groups?

In social skills groups, children learn a variety of important skills that are crucial for their interpersonal development.

According to Taylor Dreher, PhD and Clinical Psychologist at Healthy Young Minds, “Having well-developed social skills helps children form healthy relationships with others. Having positive social relationships is associated with a number of positive outcomes, including improved mental health, resilience against stress, fostering empathy, and increased learning opportunities.”

1. Sharing

Children are taught the importance of sharing and how to share with others. This includes understanding when it's appropriate to share and how to respond when someone doesn't want to share with them.

2. Cooperating

Cooperation is a key skill that children learn in these groups. They learn how to work together with others to achieve a common goal, and how to compromise when they have differing opinions or desires.

3. Listening

Active listening is another important skill that children learn. This includes not only hearing what the other person is saying, but also understanding and responding appropriately.

4. Following Directions

Children learn how to follow directions, a skill that is not only important in social situations but also in academic and professional settings.

5. Respecting Personal Space

Understanding and respecting personal space is a key social skill. Children learn what personal space is, why it's important, and how to respect others' personal space.

6. Making Eye Contact

Making eye contact is a fundamental part of effective communication. Children learn the importance of eye contact and how to use it appropriately in social interactions.

Does every child benefit from attending social skills groups?

Some children may have conditions such as Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Non-verbal Learning Disability (NVLD), or Social Communication Disorder (SCD), which can make it more challenging for them to acquire social skills in the same way as their peers.

These conditions can affect a child's ability to understand social cues, engage in conversation, or behave appropriately in social situations. However, with the right support and guidance, children with these conditions can learn and improve their social skills.

“While all children can benefit from social skills groups to learn skills in communication, problem solving, and conflict resolution,children with certain diagnoses may particularly benefit from social skills groups,” explains Dr. Dreher.

For example:

  • Children with ADHD can benefit from learning flexibility and impulse control in social situations.
  • Children with social anxiety can sometimes lack social skills in some areas, and it can be helpful for them to learn skills like conversing with others and inviting peers to play.
  • Children with autism can also benefit from learning social skills, such as learning how to choose potential friends, how to initiate and maintain a friendship, how to ask for help, etc.

It's important to remember that every child is unique, and they develop at their own pace. If you're concerned about your child's social skills, it's always a good idea to seek advice from a professional, such as a pediatrician or a child psychologist.

How can parents further help their children develop social skills?

Parents play a crucial role in their child's social development and can implement a variety of strategies at home to help their child develop social skills.

“Parents can help their children develop social skills by providing opportunities for their children to engage in structured and unstructured activities with peers,” explains Dr. Dreher. Examples of structured activities are organized sports versus an unstructured playdate or trip to the park.

“Children who lack age-appropriate social skills may need parents to step in and provide supervision and structure at first. For example, if a child is having a conflict with a peer, the parent may need to step in and help the children talk through the problem and find a solution.”

1. Encourage Communication

Parents can encourage their children to express their thoughts and feelings. This can be done through regular conversations, asking about their day, or discussing their interests. For example, if your child talks about an awkward incident at school, you can ask your child how that made them feel. This helps children learn how to express themselves and understand others.

2. Teach Sharing

Sharing is a fundamental social skill. Parents can teach their children about sharing by modeling this behavior and providing opportunities for their children to practice sharing.

3. Develop Empathy

Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of others. Parents can help their children develop empathy by discussing emotions and encouraging them to consider how others might feel in different situations. For example, if you are out in the community and see someone who needs help, model for your child how to help and then talk about why that was important afterwards.

4. Teach Conflict Resolution

Conflict is a part of life, and learning to handle it effectively is a vital social skill. Parents can teach their children how to resolve conflicts by modeling calm and respectful communication during disagreements and guiding their children to do the same. Oftentimes, working on conflict resolution between siblings at home is a safe place to start.

5. Encourage Friendships

Parents can encourage their children to make friends and maintain friendships. This can be done by arranging playdates, encouraging participation in group activities or sports teams, and teaching them how to be a good friend.

By modeling good social behavior and providing opportunities for their children to practice these skills, parents can significantly contribute to their child's social development.

Empower Your Child with Social Skills Groups

Equipping children with strong social skills is a pivotal aspect of their overall development. Social Skills Groups for children serve as a fantastic platform for kids to learn essential life skills like sharing, cooperating, listening, following directions, respecting personal space, making eye contact, and using manners. These groups provide a structured and supportive environment for children to practice these skills and improve their social interactions.

Key Takeaways from Social Skills Groups for Children

  • Social Skills Groups are small, structured gatherings led by a trained adult, aiming to help children acquire and practice social skills.
  • Children learn various essential life skills like cooperation, sharing, active listening, and using manners, among others.
  • These groups are beneficial for children who may have difficulty picking up on social cues or understanding social norms.
  • Parents can contribute to their child's social development by encouraging communication, teaching sharing, developing empathy, teaching conflict resolution, and encouraging friendships.

Social skills groups can be an extremely helpful resource for children who need a little extra help navigating the social world. As parents and caregivers, it's important to understand the value of these groups and use them as a tool to help your child grow and develop. Enroll your child in group sessions and help them build a foundation of strong social skills that will serve them for a lifetime.

Written by Dr. Cari Whitlock

Licensed Clinical Psychologist and Neuropsychologist at Healthy Young Minds

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