Back to School
The Importance of Developing Strong Social Skills
As parents and children eagerly anticipate the return to school, many questions and perhaps even some anxieties can begin to emerge. Children may ask, “Will I be able to do the next year’s work?” “Will it be interesting?” “Will I like my teacher?” “Will my friends be in my class?” And of course, parents too have their questions: “Will this teacher like and understand my child?” “Will my child be happy in this learning environment?” Teachers also have their fair share of questions about the incoming students and their parent’s expectations.
While the focus for the school year is on teaching and learning academic concepts and skills, social, organizational and self-esteem challenges are also important. The degree to which a student is able to cope with these particular types of issues that arise, has a direct influence on their academic success.
Beyond the 3 R’s, school is all about friendships, how to develop and maintain friends, how to meet challenges, how to make best choices, how to deal with mistakes, how to set and meet goals, how to be an effective member of the class community, and the list goes on.
As parents and teachers, we want the very best for our children and it is natural to want to protect them. In an effort to protect, a good number of parents succeed in only postponing the inevitable social and interpersonal lessons that every child needs to learn. Children must develop effective coping skills for interacting with a wide range of classmates – from the quiet ones, to the outgoing, to the jock, to the popular, to the studious, and even to the bullies. Teachers are there to advise, guide, and to ensure fairness and safety. Some parents demand that the problem or troublesome situation go away, and that the other child be removed so there can be greater peace and harmony at school, and subsequently at home.
In their desire to solve a child’s problem, some parents are actually eliminating opportunities whereby a child could learn how to develop and practise interpersonal strategies for themselves. The younger a child is when developing strong interpersonal strategies, the more effective and confident they will be in later life. Postponing these valuable life and community experiences does not serve a child well, as the older the student is, the higher the stakes become.
Parents are advised to think twice, and become less directive, except of course, when safety is a concern. Teachers are excellent resources for advice and support. Working together, both at school and at home, can provide consistent guidance and supportive language to help a child cope with social challenges. There are also a number of local community services and workshops available that offer professional expertise for parents and students.
Being an effective parent often means taking the longer view. Children are very fortunate when the significant adults in their lives provide support, counsel, love and understanding to help them continue to develop effective interpersonal skills which will last a lifetime.
Linda Sweet M.S. Ed.
Founder and Director, Glenburnie School
Pre-School to Grade 8
Providing a progressive and innovative private school education