It’s about that time of year! Many kids are counting down the days (and maybe even the hours) until their winter break begins. Whether traveling or staying at home, parents are often curious about how they can involve their children in the holiday plans. Winter break is a great time to reinforce social skills in children while enjoying some holiday festivities. Social skills involve any behaviors that can help with interaction and communication with others. Social skills can include expressing feelings, complimenting others, working alongside others, following rules, and many others.
The following are some ways that parents and caregivers can encourage children to practice social skills while they take their holiday break from school:
- Make a list and check it twice. Parents who are traveling over the holidays can engage children in the planning. Make a list with your child of tasks that need to get done (packing, cleaning, etc.) and model how to ask them for help. To add even more motivation, parents can set up a reward system for their holiday helper. Children can physically check tasks off the list as they move closer to their prize! Parents who are staying home can also give children special tasks, such as hanging up coats as loved ones arrive or assisting with cooking in the kitchen. Parents are encouraged to let their children know when they are doing a good job with their special task.
- Connect with others. The holidays can often involve visiting or hosting guests that children may not see as often. The winter break can be a time for parents to talk about conversation skills with their children. What kinds of questions can children ask their family members? How can they invite other young family members to play with them? How can you show others that you are listening to them? Conversation skills can be role-played using dolls/toys or brainstormed as a discussion. It can be especially helpful for children to be praised when they interact with others thoughtfully.
- Read Holiday-Themed Books together. Gathering some holiday books from the library can help children practice their reading skills, listening skills, and social skills. While reading with their child, parents can ask questions to practice perspective-taking and problem solving. For example, one might ask “Look at this character’s face. How are they feeling?” “How would you feel if you were this character?” or “What would you do in this situation?”
- Give a holiday card or Gift. Gift-giving involves an important social skill: considering the interests of others. Engage your children in helping pick a gift for another parent, sibling, friend, family member, teacher, etc. This does not have to break the bank; gifts can be handmade. A holiday activity could also include making holiday cards for others. Some questions to engage children while talking about holiday card or gift-giving might include “What does this person like?” “What is their favorite color?” “How do others feel when they receive a card?”
- Write thank you notes. One social skill that is often considered important for relationships throughout life is the ability to express gratitude. When gifts are received during the holidays, parents can model the practice of writing thank you notes to family, teachers, and even Santa Claus. Parents can encourage children to write thank you notes. Get creative! Drawings, stickers, or other mediums can be included to keep the process fun for younger children. Children who cannot write can still participate. For example, parents can read their thank you notes to them and the child can help with tasks such as sealing and sending the letters.
For additional resources and more information on local social skills classes for children, contact Erin Jones at (828) 232-8934.