Understanding Social Skills – Learned or Innate?

Published on 30th August, 2019 by Dr. Sanveen Kang

Understanding Social Skills – Learned or Innate?

Social skills can be described as a set of behaviours we use to develop positive relationships with others. They comprise of the ability to communicate, problem-solve, make decisions, self-manage, and control relationships with friends and others. It may appear that social skills are an innate skill. However, these skills are learned from birth and, are learned from others.

The biggest influence children will have for learning social skills is from their parents or other primary caregivers (such as grandparents). Parents are the building blocks for learning and understanding social skills. Children will watch carefully, and often imitate exactly how their parents behave and treat others. Also, social skills build on each other one at a time. For instance, social skills continue to evolve as children attend school and, model the behaviours of their teachers and peers.

It is important to recognize that not all children develop these skills readily. It’s important to identify “red flags” in your child’s behaviour and work on these areas to allow them to flourish in their social environment. One might ask, what are the signs that my child might be struggling with social skills?

First, social skills have 3 different areas: 1. Physical, 2. Verbal, and 3. Thinking. Each area will have different skills a child might struggle with:

  • The Physical Area includes skills such as eye contact, understanding personal space, body language, and facial expressions.
  • The Verbal Area includes skills that relate to taking turns in conversation and in games, maintaining topics in conversation, sharing too much information or not enough information, talking too soft or too loud, difficulty with receiving or giving compliments, avoiding social situations, or difficulty knowing what to say or do during introductions.
  • The Thinking Area includes the following trouble understanding someone else’s emotions or perspectives, trouble with humour or sarcasm and, difficulty with social cues in conversations.

A child might have trouble in just one area or all three areas. If your child faces challenges in any of these areas, it is important to be aware that these skills can be worked on and developed successfully with the appropriate tools and strategies.

Every child is unique. Working in partnership with caregivers and educators, social skills therapists are able to identify a child’s specific social needs and develop an individualized treatment plan. This ensures that your child flourishes in the social world around them. The world is full of social situations, and we need to equip children with the skills they need.

Dr. Sanveen Kang

About the Author - Dr. Sanveen Kang

Dr. Kang is a Clinical Psychologist by training and has more than 14 years of experience in treating mental and physical health issues for clients in hospitals, private practice, educational and corporate settings.

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