Relationships are important for children and can have a great impact on their development at home, at school, and at hobbies. Relationship skills, such as communication, teamwork, leadership, cultural competency, and the ability to solve problems in diverse settings are increasingly valuable 21st century skills. This blog post will discuss why these skills are so important for our next generation and give you some tips on how you can help your child develop these essential life skills.
Why Kids Need Relationship Skills
Parents and educators want to know how can I help my children develop the critical relationship skills they will use throughout their lives? Kids need adults to model relationship skills in order for them to be able to practice them themselves later on. One way you can do this is by showing respect yourself, following through with commitments made (such as keeping a promise not tell secrets) and responding thoughtfully when asked about differences between people or cultures. These things are all crucial parts of building healthy friendships and family relationships that last. And, as children grow into adults, these same skills are vital for strong romantic partnerships and work relationships.
Relationship skills for kids relies on a complex set of practices including self-awareness and emotional wellbeing that build up a child as a whole human. In psychology, children and adults can build the same skills–what matters is meeting a child where they’re at in terms of their brain development. For example, adults understand conflict resolution as a skill, but children ages 5-11 (and even preschoolers!) may only be able to understand conflict resolution through play or when others model restoring a relationship after a fight. Here are some ways that kids can understand relationship skills early on and throughout their growing years:
Effective Communication Skills for Kids
Communicating effectively is a vital skill to have, both at home and in school. As children grow and develop the need for communication skills becomes increasingly important. Communication with family members can be especially difficult when kids are young, but taking time to talk about things that bother them or make them happy will help build healthy relationships as they get older. Teaching children how to use their words rather than act out physically encourages empathy; this should start early on by teaching toddlers impulse control through verbalizing feelings instead of acting out verbally or physically–a key component of Social Emotional Learning (SEL). Practicing these communication skills throughout childhood ensures that your child has the language they need for a well-rounded emotional life.
Try identifying good communication skills within your family. Brainstorm some ways that you can work on these skills together:
- Ask for help and offer it when needed
- Listen to each other and try to understand where the person is coming from
- Share your feelings in a respectful way that makes sense to both people, such as “I’m feeling frustrated because I wanted this toy but there’s only one left.”
- Apologize if someone feels hurt by something you said or did (and make sure the apology includes an idea of what will change so it doesn’t happen again)
Teamwork Really Does Make the Dream Work
Most children understand teamwork through their play without an adult ever having to tell them that what’s working together means. But as kids get older and start developing more of their personality, different ways of working together may clash in significant ways. Understanding teamwork as a skill means that it can be improved rather than a personality trait.
Encourage your child to identify what makes them a great teammate and also what they need when working with others. For example, a child who loves to have fun and tell jokes may be able to motivate their friends through a tough task, but they may need a friend who can stay organized and on task. When kids understand their own skills and what they need from others, they’ll be able to work together with many more people.
Finally, A Solution for Peer Pressure
Teaching kids how to deal with peer pressure is a challenging task. It can be difficult for them to know what the right decision is when they feel pressured by their friends, and it’s even harder if they are being faced with those pressures at school as well! Kids may feel like peers who do things differently than them are “bad” or not worth hanging out with—which isn’t true. But our society often sends messages about these topics that don’t help either: movies where people only hang out together because of common interests rather than any other reason, for example. Encourage your child to talk about similarities and differences in their friends. You can even model resisting peer pressure by describing a time as a child or an adult where you were self-aware enough to stand up for what you want instead of giving in to what someone else wanted you to do.
More than anything, children want to be reassured that they will be okay after making a difficult decision, so building good relationship skills with the whole family can mitigate the effects of peer pressure. Of course, some peer pressure can be positive when it encourages children to take safe risks that move them out of their comfort zone like trying out for the school play. Talking to kids regularly about positive and negative peer pressure can also help them identify their own feelings–tummy butterflies when their best friend introduces them to the new kid at school versus a stomach ache when their friends talk about stealing from the corner store.
How HeyKiddo™ Can Help Kids Build Relationship Skills
Kids need parents, teachers and other caring adults to help them learn how they can build healthy relationship skills now and for a lifetime. Our HeyKiddo™ products are designed to give parents and teachers everything they need, when they need it, to build lifelong social, emotional and leadership skills at home or in the classroom. Download our Stress Management Toolkit today to get started and learn how you can help build these important skills at home or at school!