What about socialization?
If only I had a dime for every time I hear some variation of this question. As a homeschool coach, the socialization topic emerges often. Many parents inquire how they can offer their children social opportunities while learning from home, fearing their children will miss out on this key stage of development if they don’t provide various social outlets.
I’m here to tell you that social development is more than just being around people. It is the capacity to communicate and form relationships with those around us. It is very possible that your child could hop from one social opportunity to the next and never exercise their social intelligence muscle. This is why it’s ludicrous to think that children are receiving proper social development just because they’re sitting in a classroom full of kids in the same age group.
Here’s the thing. Social intelligence is closely intertwined with emotional intelligence. Both intelligences are crucial for developing empathy, listening to understand rather than to respond, and understanding and respecting the social rules of different groups. Therefore, strong social intelligence means your child knows himself, can communicate effectively with others, and can exercise proper emotional management. These skills must be modeled and taught.
Here are some ways we can nurture social development at home and help our children exercise social intelligence.
Disclaimer: I’m not a licensed professional. Just a seasoned homeschooler passionate about Whole Child Learning.
1. Talk about it.
As soon as children are old enough to understand, talk about social intelligence with your child and read age-appropriate books that illustrate social intelligence. Explain that forming and maintaining healthy relationships with others is vital and takes lots of practice. This dialogue in itself helps your child practice essential social skills like active listening and contributing to conversations.
2. Practice it.
One day, my children had a blast playing with a boy at the park. When they got into the car, my boys talked nonstop about the fun they had. I inquired about their new friend’s name, to which they did not know. They never asked him. It suddenly dawned on me that my children needed practice introducing themselves to others and asking for names and contact info, so we held mock conversations at home. Other conversations worth practicing are how to say no to peer pressure and how to initiate a difficult conversation with an adult or friend. The book, Social Skills Activities for Kids, was a great way for us to discuss how to navigate different social scenarios.
3. Apply it.
Now here’s the fun part, applying social intelligence skills to the real world. Before we go to social events, I like to remind my children about the social tools we discussed that they could utilize. This practice refreshes our lessons on social intelligence, makes what we learn more meaningful, and encourages the habit of application.
4. Mediate it.
Learning how to defuse discord in relationships is an essential skill. Likewise, teaching your children the art of sincerely apologizing and taking a moment to cool down before responding to an offense are great tools for repairing rifts in relationships. I remember when one of my sons had his first argument with his best friend. On the car ride home, he was so upset and wanted to end the friendship. Immediately, I asked my son to make a list of the pros and cons of having this individual as a friend. Then, he could decide if the friendship was worth fighting for. Making a list helped my son to see that there were far more pros than cons and he immediately forgave his friend. After all, it was his friend’s first offense, and I teach my children to discern people by their patterns, not by isolated moments.
5. Model it.
How you speak and engage with your children often reflects in how they communicate and engage with others. Modeling respectful relating is one of the best ways to foster social intelligence in your homeschool. Remember to stay calm when your children aren’t, offer constructive criticism in private and not in front of others, apologize when needed, listen to understand and not respond, and use a gentle tone and loving language toward each other.
6. Incorporate Whole Child Learning (BONUS Tip)
As a bonus tip, I highly suggest incorporating Whole Child Learning in your home environment if you haven’t already. Whole Child Learning prioritizes the full scope of a child’s developmental needs to ensure that every child reaches their full potential. The education model is based on the premise that children have six selves that comprise who they are: cognitive, physical, emotional, social, creative, and spiritual.
Think of the full scope of your child’s development as one giant puzzle. All the pieces work together to form the whole child. If just one part is missing, the puzzle is incomplete. For instance, creative play fosters physical development, which is tied to emotional stability, social intelligence, and cognitive function. Therefore, to ensure your child reaches their full potential, you must ensure they are developing well in all areas.