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Social Skills Strategies for Parents and Teachers

— State: Arizona Department of Education
Updated on Feb 25, 2011

All students need to learn appropriate social skills to have a healthy lifestyle as a child, teen, and adult. With appropriate social skills, students can make and keep friends, give and get respect from peers and adults, self-advocate, and gain needed self-respect, self-confidence, and independence. Growing up with these skills can help a child be an independent, well-rounded, socially acceptable individual who can make his own decisions and plan his own future. Below are strategies for both parents and teachers.

Social Problem: Poor peer relationships

Parent Strategies:

  • Have the child participate in non-threatening social experiences such as classes, sports, or other outside of school activities or volunteering.
  • If social problems are caused due to family issues—divorce, new sibling in home, death in the family, etc, give time and support, and let the child develop skills at their own pace as long as it’s healthy for the child to do so.
  • Give the child time to share peer-related concerns one-on-one or as a family.
  • Let the child know that it is okay if he is not liked by everyone all the time, and that what is more important is that he has a few quality friends.

Teacher Strategies

  • Create non-threatening social experiences such as smaller group sizes or having older children mentor younger (non-threatening) students to build up self-confidence in social settings.
  • Include formal social skills training in class setting or individually.
  • Cooperative classroom projects can help children who need to improve their social reputations. This gives them time to work on developing the small group cooperative skills, while getting to know classmates in a safe environment.
  • Give children opportunities to share peer-related concerns, one-on-one, in small groups or as a whole.

Social Problem: Feels like they have no friends

Parent Strategies

  • If the child does not have any friends—or feels that he doesn’t—the main priority is to help the child to identify their friends. Help the child to think back on when he needed help, or was lonely, or not feeling good. Who was there? Who helped him? Who comes over to play? Who calls? Who lets the child know when things happen in his favorite class, or sports, or on the playground? Eventually the child will see a pattern of who his friends really are!

Teacher Strategies

  • Before talking with a child about this subject, observe him for a day or two at least. See whom he plays with or hangs out with. Who does the child choose to go stand by? This will give the teacher an indication as to who this student sees as his friends and companions. It will also give teaching staff an idea if this child is being harassed, bullied or victimized in any way. Also see the parent sections.

Social Problem: Dealing with a student who torments others in class

Parent Strategies

  • If parents know that a certain student always harasses their child, the teacher needs to know. One of the children might be able to be moved to another class so that both students can have a more productive year.
  • If moving to another class isn’t possible, the teacher can at a minimum, make sure the students are not seated near each other, or ever work in groups together.
  • Parents might request that their child and the other student participate in the peer mediation program, if available.

Teacher Strategies

  • Find something that the child who does the harassing likes. Create an activity “as an incentive” for that child to behave. For example, Billy is the harasser and he loves animals. The class has a pet turtle. If Billy can control himself and not bully others, he gets to take care of the class turtle.
  • Praise students for their positive actions.
  • Teachers may be surprised to eventually see them exhibit more positive behaviors than negative behaviors, because they are still getting attention—but now it is positive instead of negative.
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