Developing social skills is an exceptionally important part of maturing and becoming a well-balanced adult. From moving up in the working environment to a healthy social life, success is often based on having good social skills. While traditional schools offer built-in socialisation opportunities, homeschooling requires a proactive approach to creating social experiences for children.
In this article, we’ll delve into how the development of social skills differs between children and teens, as well as provide some suggestions on how to provide your child with socialisation opportunities.
The Importance of Homeschool Socialisation
While homeschooling does provide many benefits, such as extra time and a higher level of education, there is the potential of children not having as many opportunities to interact with peers and socialise. This is, however, easily solved by consciously creating opportunities for children and teens to experience social interaction.
While some claim that homeschooled kids are weird or don't develop into well-rounded individuals, this often only happens if these children aren't exposed to other children their own age.
In fact, homeschooling can provide unique opportunities for socialisation that are different from those in traditional schools. This is because children will have more time to spend on hobbies and interests where they can meet and form bonds with likeminded peers.
This will also teach them to more easily meet people and make friends later on in life, as adults meet people and form bonds by participating in hobbies and events that interest them.
Children who attend traditional schools might have to learn this skill after graduation as they were only exposed to forming bonds with peers they met at school, never reaching outside of their comfort zone to interact with others.
Parents just have to put an emphasis on creating these opportunities and encouraging peer interaction.
The Difference Between Social Skills for Teens and Kids
While there is an overlap between social skills for teens and kids, there are also some differences due to the developmental stage and unique challenges that each group faces. Here are some distinctions between social skills for teens and kids:
Teens typically place a higher emphasis on peer interactions and forming closer friendships. Their social skills may involve more complex dynamics, such as navigating group dynamics, understanding social hierarchies, and dealing with issues like peer pressure and cliques.
However, younger children may focus more on basic social skills like sharing, taking turns, and engaging in play with their friends.
During adolescence, teens tend to explore and develop their self-identity. This exploration will affect their social interactions as they seek acceptance, define their interests, and establish their place within their peer groups.
Kids, on the other hand, are still developing their sense of self and may rely more on guidance from adults in social situations.
Both kids and teens need to develop effective communication skills, but the complexity of communication tends to increase during adolescence.
Teens may focus on developing skills such as active listening, expressing themselves assertively, understanding non-verbal cues, and practising empathy. Younger children may focus more on basic communication skills like using appropriate language, asking for help, and engaging in simple conversations.
Younger children tend to be less explorative of their independence and they may rely more on adult guidance and supervision in social situations. This will ultimately form the basis off of which they’ll become confident in their own ability and start to explore independence later.
Teens are at a stage where they are seeking greater independence from their parents and caregivers. Their social skills may involve making decisions independently, managing conflicts on their own, and advocating for themselves.
It’ll be beneficial to encourage social and emotional learning and growth from a young age, especially if your child is homeschooled. This will give them a head start on knowing how to process emotions and deal with them positively and in a constructive manner. This can be encouraged by enrolling them in a social and emotional learning course.
Extra Curricular Activities for Kids and Teens
Children should try as many activities as possible. This will expose them to many different hobbies and interests. As they explore these hobbies, they’ll develop stronger inclinations towards certain of these activities. As they start to age, you can narrow down which activities truly interest them and allow them to pour more energy into those hobbies.
By the time they approach their teens, they’ll already have a strong idea of who they are and what they enjoy. Therefore, when they interact with other teenagers who have the same hobbies, they’ll automatically form bonds and make friends easier, or already have friends that they made through their hobby when they were younger.
It should always be encouraged that children pursue hobbies that challenge them physically, mentally, and creatively. This will help them flourish into balanced and healthy adults with a positive emotional outlet and manner of expression.
Physical activity, mental stimulation, and creative expression can be found in a number of activities.
Whether your child is naturally physically inclined or seems to shy away from physical activity, including and encouraging a sport or physical movement is important.
The key is to find something that your child enjoys. They might enjoy a popular sport, such as rugby, soccer, netball, tennis, or hockey. Perhaps they are more interested in sports such as gymnastics, horse riding, surfing, dancing, or climbing.
It could also be that your child is more interested in gaming and, therefore, a game that encourages physical activity is more suited. For example, Nintendo has launched a game known as Ring Fit Adventure. In this game, you battle monsters and level up through physical activity.
It could be that your child doesn’t enjoy being competitive at all, in which case something such as yoga could be more suited to their personality.
Children and teens should be exposed to activities that stimulate them mentally. Activities such as chess, reading, knitting, gardening, and board games can be a fantastic way to encourage knowledge growth and mental alertness. While some of these activities might seem solitary they don't have to be.
You can enrol your child in a chess or bookclub, where they can meet other children their own age. You can also take them to board game days, as many board game shops host monthly and weekly sessions where people gather to play together.
Again, it’s important to find an activity that your child enjoys and find a way to include social interaction with peers in the hobby.
Creative expression isn't limited to drawing and painting. In fact, there are many hobbies that encourage creativity and thinking outside of the box.
If your child enjoys being practical and building things, you could potentially enrol them in a woodwork class. Sculpture and pottery classes could also be more attractive to these children.
Music is also a fantastic form of creative expression, and there are many instruments to choose from. The added benefit of this is that your child could potentially meet other musically inclined children and form a band where they can make friends, learn to work in a group, and have fun.
Enrolling your child in acting classes or theatre productions is also a fantastic way to get them mingling with children their own age while being creative.
Ultimately, creative expression can come in many shapes and sizes, and there is bound to be a form of creativity that will pique your child’s interest.