Initiating and taking turns during conversations, maintaining eye contact, distinguishing verbal and nonverbal social cues, being polite, repairing misunderstandings… these socialization skills don’t happen overnight! Many of us as adults are still trying to master these key behaviors and subtleties of communication. They are vital for gratifying human relationships of any kind and at any age. They are also essential for effective classroom learning.
Just like parents at home can reinforce good reading habits by modeling and taking time to read with children, so can parents lay the foundations of healthy socializing by teaching these skills at home. Children need instruction on how to politely get your attention when you are otherwise involved. They are watching and learning when we clarify and work through misunderstandings in the home— as we hopefully model respectful tones, patience, acceptance of responsibility and expressions of forgiveness. And when things don’t go as well as they could have, there may need to be some healthy discussion after things cool down. What great learning opportunities!
Today at school I was working with Ms. Kelly’s 4th graders about how to be assertive in certain situations while avoiding being either passive or aggressive. The students acted out various scenarios and were very articulate about how to speak up with respect for themselves or for others. We had very meaningful discussion about how difficult this can be in real life as well as how it can make or break the spirit of cooperation and learning atmosphere in the classroom.
This week I am putting together some once-a-week lunchtime small groups for working on skills for healthy friendships. Teachers have recommended students for these groups and some students have personally expressed interest in participating. We will invite as many as we can for this first 6-8 week round (getting just the right group dynamic is critical), and will gradually be adding more throughout the school year. Through discussion, role-play, fun activities and games, the goal will be to help kids make and keep friends, manage emotions, develop healthy character traits and a positive sense of identity. If your child brings home a group invitation and permission slip, please sign and send it back ASAP and let me know if you have any questions.
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