The Floortime Center

School and Social Skills

Where do children develop their social skills? This is a question you may not have deeply considered before. There seems to be a common misconception that schools are responsible for this development and that is simply not true. Social skills are established and developed at home with parents or caregivers within the child’s first few years of life. Schools should be used as a place to practice the skills that had previously been developed at home. 
It is known that children naturally start to establish these skills before they would be starting school, so it is important that this developmental need is tended to and provided for. In addition, this gives the opportunity to work through challenging social situations at home instead of with peers, which tend to be far less forgiving and can make for difficult social situations for the child. 
Many children with social-emotional delays have delays in their development of social skills. The expectation to fix this issue is often passed to schools. Unfortunately, these children likely will never be able to develop these skills because they never developed a foundation of these skills at home. The schools are also faced with using more structured and rigid teaching methods to help children develop formulaic and repetitive language patterns and gestures to “develop” these social skills. 
A well-respected childhood development principle is “We have to walk before we run”. However, before the child can walk, they must learn to sit up, roll over and crawl first. This concept applies to social skills as well. Every skill a child develops has precursors. The ideal situation is for the child to establish and develop social skills at home, with parents or caregivers. Then, they can practice these skills at school amongst peers.
This may mean holding off on having your child start that half-day or full day of school. It may mean spending more intentional time with them with the goal of progressing their social skills. It also mean accepting that schools exist for academic access and serves as a place to allow children to practice their social skills, but not to teach these skills. 
We hope this article leaves you inspired to spend more time with your children and seek knowledge on how to best help them grow and progress their social skills at home.