7 Ways to Build Social Skills and Prevent Bullying

How building social skills can help kids avoid becoming targets of bullying

group of teens smiling and talking
iStockphoto

Your child does not have to be popular to have solid social skills. But having good social skills can do a lot to enhance your children's lives. Not only will they feel confident and connected to others, but social skills also are a protective factor against bullying. What's more, being able to communicate thoughts and feelings is an important life skill.

If your children have strong social skills, they will feel more comfortable dealing with difficult situations, including bullying.

They also are less likely to bully others, because they can navigate difficult situations without resorting to intimidation, manipulation and other bullying tactics.

What’s more, studies have linked strong social skills with better academic achievement and can impact their careers and their relationships. Remember though, for some kids developing social skills takes time and some trial and error. So do not expect immediate changes. Here are seven tips for improving your child’s social skills.

Build self-esteem. A solid self-esteem is at the root of a child’s social ability. If kids lack confidence, it is hard for them to take the risks needed in developing strong social skills. So start with developing your child’s self-esteem. Self-esteem also is a protective factor against bullying because kids are less likely to pick on those who are confident and in control. Do everything you can to ensure your children can recognize their strengths and their weaknesses and feel good about who they are.

Foster friendships. Healthy friendships are also a protective factor when it comes to bullying. In fact, even just one friend can go a long way in bully-proofing your child. Bullies are less likely to target kids who have friends. So it is wise for you to help your child develop friendships, especially at a young age.

This involves scheduling time with their friends, getting them involved in outside activities and talking about what constitutes healthy friendships.

Teach assertiveness. Believe it or not, being assertive is a crucial part of being strong socially. When kids are passive or compliant, they end up getting taken advantage of or bullied. Mean girls especially look for others who are not assertive. Teach your to express their thoughts and feelings. They also should realize that it is appropriate to stand up for their rights especially when it comes to bullying, relational aggression, cyberbullying, sexual bullying and other offensive behaviors.

Instill respectfulness. Kids should be taught that everyone deserves respect and that everyone has value. When they recognize this, they are not only less likely to bully others but also more likely to stand up against bullying behavior. What’s more, kids need to realize that if their friends are not treating them with respect, then their friends are bullies.

Stress to your child that everyone deserves respect, including them. They should not maintain relationships with people who are not respectful.

Cultivate resiliency. Kids are going to encounter bullying and conflict throughout their lives. So teaching them how to deal with issues and problems without letting it affect them is a valuable life skill. Resiliency also helps kids counteract the impact of bullying. What’s more, kids who are resilient can be honest about their feelings and communicate how they are feeling to others. It also helps them persevere when being bullied or facing difficulties.

Model empathy. Empathetic kids are usually socially skilled kids. When kids can feel empathy for others, they are in tune with what others are feeling and often communicate care and concern. To teach your kids empathy, be sure you are modeling the behavior at home. For instance, when you see a bullying situation, ask your child how that person might feel. If he struggles to tell you, prompt him with some ideas. Also, demonstrate care and concern for others by donating to the poor, volunteering at a food pantry and participating in other charitable activities.

Practice problem solving. Perhaps the most crucial element of building social skills is developing a child’s ability to solve problems in a healthy way. To do this requires that your children know how to identify their feelings and manage their impulses. When these two characteristics are not present, kids can have trouble relating to others. Also, give your child tools for solving conflicts such as learning to collaborate and to anticipate consequences.

Continue Reading