With the holiday season upon us, kids are likely to find themselves in many social situations. From family gatherings to holiday parties, the ability for your child to have a conversation will go a long way. Not only is the art of conversation important for kids, it’s a skill parents value as well. In fact, 54% of parents say that having good social and communication skills is the most important skill for their child’s success. However, just like so many other social skills, conversing with others is rarely taught, and yet the ability to do so is a vital skill set for life.
I love teaching kids conversational skills. It’s like introducing them to a whole new world that’s not only empowering, but self-esteem boosting. Think about it for a second. Have you ever had a lesson on conversational skills? Did anyone ever teach you how to initiate, maintain or close a conversation? Have you ever been taught how to listen effectively? At socialsklz:-) we start teaching these skills as early as age 4 and when I ask students how to start a conversation most respond, “ugh…well, I’m not really sure” or a 4-year-old will chime in, “I like your shirt!”
Instead of simply assuming that kids will just pick up the ability to converse along the way, parents need to be intentional and teach children this vital skill. Based on the fact that we encounter and communicate with others all day, every day, and we will continue to do so for the rest of our lives, why not spend a little bit of time explaining to kids how to communicate? I can assure you that the time you invest in teaching these skills now will pay off in spades in the future.
Start with these 5 simple, at-home tips to set your child up for conversational success during the holidays and in the future:
Equip with Questions
Always have 3 questions at hand that you can ask anyone and memorize them! For example, “How are you?”, “Are you enjoying the winter?”, or “What are your plans for the holidays?”
Avoid One-Word Answers
When responding to questions, never answer with just one-word. For example, saying “fine” when asked “How are you?” is a conversation stopper! Instead of halting the conversation in its tracks, give some information about how your day is actually going so that the person has something that they can respond to. After all, the purpose of a conversation is to get to know someone or to hear how they are doing.
Ask a Question
After you’ve responded to a question, you must ask a question back to the person in order to keep the conversation going. For example, “My holiday break is going well. I got to hang out with my best friend today! We made a snowman! How is your break going?”
Be an Active Listener
Use your eyes, facial gestures and body to show that you’re paying attention to what the other person is saying. Make direct eye contact and nod along as they are speaking. By active listening you can ensure that you are truly engaged in what the other person is saying and aren’t distracted by anything outside the conversation. A great way to ensure that you are in the moment is to ask a follow up question about what the other person was just discussing.
Play the Conversational Skills Game
Have a ball, a timer and questions at hand. Whoever is initiating the conversation is holding the ball. The ball gets passed once a question is asked. For example, you’re holding the ball and you ask, “Brian, how’s your day going?” You then pass the ball. Brian responds with more than one-word, sharing information, and then asks a question of you and passes the ball back.
For more social skills lessons take a look at socialsklz:-) for SUCCESS: How to Give Children the Tools to Thrive in the Modern World (Running Press) available anywhere books are sold.