Children’s ability to get along with others – or their ‘social development’ – is a process that happens as they grow.
For example, four-year-olds are in the early stages of social development – they are learning to take turns, listen to other children’s ideas and play group games. By middle primary school, it is common for children to congregate in small friendship groups based around similar interests.
Groups give children valuable practice in setting, following and negotiating social rules. Think about how you deal with other groups of people at work, home and in social situations – chances are you learned and gradually refined these skills throughout childhood.
Limited social development can affect children’s ability to get along with others, particularly in group settings. Children with poor social skills may dominate groups and exclude members, which can lead to bullying, peer-pressure or getting mixed-up in trouble. Or they may have confidence problems, becoming easily dominated and influenced.
Positive social development is about teaching children good values and responsible decision-making, which can help them resist peer-pressure and become valuable members of their group of friends and society in general. You can:
- Teach by example – model positive behaviours by treating them and others fairly and respectfully.
- Develop their social and emotional skills – empathy, sharing, caring, listening and taking turns.
- Help them learn from their mistakes – use situations as ‘teachable moments’ to reinforce good values.
- Give them chances to practise good values – like volunteer work or charitable donations.
- Supervise external influences – media, internet, games and friends.