Yuval Noah Harari, in his book, “Sapiens” quotes, that gossip and socializing was actually the foundation of the survival of our species. 

Social co operation allowed early humans to survive, expand their tribe, make friends, establish order and set themselves apart from the rest of the animal kingdom. Human beings are sociable creatures and we have developed and evolved this much, thanks to the ability of socializing.

Social skills are therefore the very important skills that we use to communicate with each other both verbally and non verbally ( through our tone of voice, gestures, body language and personal appearance).

Good social skills allow us to become emotionally smart, enjoy better relationships, develop a healthy sense of self confidence and be resilient. Studies have shown that poor social skills lead to poor adjustment, legal trouble, substance abuse and relationship issues.

Today, we are all cooped up at home due to the pandemic. When we were children, though the importance of teaching social skills was not understood, we were lucky to learn it by default, thanks to large family sizes, having to make do with less resources and the lack of internet.

Unfortunately for the children of today, due to the shrinking family sizes, the abundance of resources and now, the pandemic, social skill learning seems to have taken a back seat.

Luckily for parents, social skills can be developed and strengthened in children with effort and practice even during the near lockdown. Here’s how:

  1. Teaching sharing:

The craving to possess is a natural part of a child’s growth and development. Young children develop strong attachments to people and things and may refuse to share them.Some children are easy going and share easily. Some children may be okay with sharing things but not attention and some others vice versa.Observe children to see which end of the spectrum they lie on. Respect their possessiveness when young. But as they grow older, teach them that sharing is caring and that caring makes them better human beings.

It is seen that when young children are at the receiving end of generosity and kindness, they become more giving. Parents displaying sharing behaviour in front of them also helps children learn to share. Talking to children and telling them that the immediate gratification that they get by snatching or refusing to share is short lived in comparison with the long term satisfaction of gaining a friend may also work.

It is also important to teach children to understand that other kids who do not like sharing may have some reason behind the behaviour. If this is not done, the child may feel a sense of anger on the parent for making him share when others snatch.

Easy ways to teach sharing at home  are by : 

  1. teaching them to take turns when doing anything, like standing in line to wash hands at the sink or waiting for their turn to use the bathroom
  2. teaching to time share, eg. tv time with their grandparents or video game time with their siblings
  3. giving the child an opportunity to share and praising the effort.


  1. Teaching cooperation.

Co operation helps us harmoniously interact with others and accomplish tasks more easily, effectively and fast. Working together to achieve a common goal is easily learnt through group play. Good co operation skills help children get along well with their playmates. Some children are born leaders and some others are comfortable following instructions. Both need to exercise their co operating muscles and parents can do this by:

  1. scheduling household chores when everyone can participate in them. The simple exercise of setting the table for dinner, serving, clearing up and doing the dishes, when done together, can be an act of teaching co operation.
  2. Pointing out times when characters in movies and stories employ co operation as a strategy to work together and win
  3. allowing play projects during play dates which allow kids to get together and create something.

3. Teaching listening.

Listening is an unrecognised but important skill to learn.Most of the times, we listen passively while we are doing other things. Listening is not about staying quiet. It means keenly absorbing what someone is saying. The ability to listen is closely tied to increased concentration, better absorbing of material taught in class and better understanding of concepts. These children are better at following directions and understanding emotions. 

We can teach listening by:

a. reading to children, and periodically stopping and asking them what they remembered about the story so far

b. teaching them not to interrupt while others are talking

c. giving them our full attention when they are telling us something rather than listening half heartedly while multi tasking our chores

4. Teaching emotions

Feelings and emotions are abstract concepts. It is hard for children to understand their feelings and manage them. It is difficult for a child to express what he is feeling when we refuse to extend his tv time or punish him for back answering. Teaching kids to recognise and regulate emotions helps them manage their adult lives better because emotionally resilient people can wade through tough times and emerge successful. 

Emotions can be taught by:

  1. naming all feelings that they experience, especially complicated ones like frustration, envy, guilt and so on
  2. asking them to recognise feelings of characters in books and tv shows
  3. talking about feelings. For example, when asked “how are you?”, teach them to say “ I am feeling sad/happy/ frustrated/etc” rather than the standard “fine”!
  4. teaching anger management skills, so that they can resolve their own conflicts.
  5. walking the talk. If you throw things about when angry and expect the child to calm down when the same happens to him, then you have another think coming.

In our competitive world, most parents want their children to shine as adults. In pursuit of this, they try to scour for the best schools, the best hobby classes and the like. This might get them the best of the jobs. But unless social skills are taught, they may not have a gratifying life or strong relationships.


About the Author

Preethi Shanbhag


My name is Preethi Shanbhag. I am a psychiatrist and a mother. In my free time I love to read, write, travel and cook.

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