Kindergarten is a vital year for children in terms of their social development. It may be a time where social and behavioral issues can arise. Many parents understand how difficult it can be to witness their child having trouble making friends or being disciplined at school for misbehavior. The elementary school experience can also be a great time for children to learn social skills or prosocial behaviors. These include following directions, expressing emotions, playing with others, and more communication skills. In fact, recent studies surveying elementary school teachers have reported that many teachers consider social skills to be even more imperative than academics in kindergarten.
Research shows that teaching children social skills using a Cognitive-Behavioral approach can have several benefits in wellbeing. Parents are encouraged to consider these 4 examples of ways that children can benefit from learning and practicing social skills:
- Long Term Success. Learning social skills is significant both in elementary school and throughout the lifespan. A 2015 longitudinal study published in the American Journal of Public Health found that competency in prosocial behaviors as early as kindergarten can have positive impacts on areas such as employment, education, and mental health in adulthood.
- Forming Friendships. Friendships can be complicated. In elementary school, friendships are being formed while children are developmentally learning how to take the perspective of someone else. Encouraging children to practice skills such as perspective-taking, initiating conversation, and resolving conflict can greatly impact their friendships. Skills can also be taught to children so that they can better navigate the rules of play (such as taking turns and sharing). This will help them to work well with others and maintain established friendships.
- Classroom. Kindergarten often involves the introduction of many social skills that children must practice for success. For example, students learn to raise their hand before speaking, respond to questions appropriately, and practice active listening. Children can also see benefits in the classroom when they learn how to ask for help. Developing a confidence in theses skills can help children avoid negative consequences in class and be more present as they learn.
- Improved Mental Health. Research also shows that learning social skills can positively impact the mental health of children. For example, children who struggle with ADHD, ODD, conduct disorder, the Autism Spectrum and other mental health diagnoses can benefit from skills such as learning to express their emotions. Mental health is proven to be improved when children learn decision-making, problem solving skills, as well as how their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are connected.
The CBT Center provides weekly social skills classes (called “Mighty Minds”) for elementary-aged children. These classes can give children opportunities to have fun while practicing important social skills. For more information, please call 828-232-8934.