How to Nurture Social Fluency

A child’s ability to navigate social situations with ease and confidence isn’t inherited, it’s learned. Educators play a major role in childrens’ overall development, especially in their social skills. As technology takes up more of …

people laughing and talking outside during daytime

A child’s ability to navigate social situations with ease and confidence isn’t inherited, it’s learned. Educators play a major role in childrens’ overall development, especially in their social skills. As technology takes up more of their lives, intentional instruction, nurturing, and refining students’ social abilities are even more essential. Mastering social skills requires practice, guidance, and reinforcement. Luckily, doing so can be fun.

1. Provide Opportunities for Socialization Through Play

Social fluency covers an array of interpersonal skills that are essential for life, relationship building, and overall well-being. Communication, cooperation, empathy, and conflict resolution represent many of the interpersonal skills relative to social fluency. Understanding social norms, cues, and body language in various settings is important to interacting effectively with others. When a person understands how to do these things well, they can navigate the world and their relationships.

Play is one of the most accessible and effective ways to teach social fluency. One of the best places to facilitate learning that doesn’t feel like instruction is on the playground. Combat the effects of excessive screen time, social media, and modern pressures on students across age ranges and get outside.

Initiate a game that requires teamwork, communication, and poses a challenge to overcome. For example, use your school’s playground equipment to stage a rescue mission for a lost puppy. Suddenly, the whole class is working together, even the students who typically don’t get along. Allow for free play or assign roles, which may empower those whose social fluency is more junior.

Work with your school administration to upgrade your playground equipment so that it offers educational benefits. A magical fairy mushroom playset can spark a preschooler’s imagination in ways a lone swingset never could. An obstacle course can give older students a mental and physical challenge, both of which are well-suited for team-based play. Look into grants at the local, state, and national levels, which may cover some or all of the costs.

2. Teach Social Skills Intentionally

Be direct in your approach by researching and planning your social fluency curricula. Identify a library of social skills to nurture versus playing it by ear. Some components of social skills seem like second nature, but your lived experience greatly influences what you believe is important. Create a list of skills to teach and develop lessons that facilitate direct instruction and role-playing exercises.

Create real-life scenarios that provide opportunities to practice social interactions. A preschool class might set up a post office and children can take turns switching which roles they play. A child may be the customer and be presented with the opportunity to request help from the postal worker. By articulating a desire, the child builds confidence while doing so with courtesy and respect for the worker.

Learning through play exposes children to social interactions in a safe place. Without going through the steps, a child doesn’t stand a chance in adulthood. Older students can conduct mock interviews, role-play challenging scenarios, and debate issues. Each of these opportunities facilitates skills like interpreting nonverbal cues, expressing emotions effectively, and practicing eye contact. With so much interaction today going digital, many of these essential social skills can be overlooked or underdeveloped.

Encourage students to be empathetic to others through active listening, perspective-taking, and respect. Work through challenging interactions by acknowledging their feelings and those of others. Facilitate situations that they could experience in life and provide the opportunity for them to break down in a safe place. Provide a prompt or role for each student during a role-play exercise to ensure you expose them to different perspectives. Encourage debate and constructive feedback, and show them how to improve in future scenarios.

3. Model Social Fluency

Children learn by observing and imitating the behaviors of those around them. At home, their parents, caregivers, and siblings model what behavior is acceptable. In the classroom, kids are watching their teachers, administrators, and peers for social cues and norms. While this isn’t to say everyone is modeling excellent behavior at all times, the world around them sets the standard.

As an educator, it’s important to understand your social fluency level and to be intentional in how you engage others. With children, you may be more expressive in your social skills, how you phrase responses, and how you identify cues. This behavior can help children better identify and engage with social norms. Just as you’d pronounce words with exaggerated annunciation to a new reader, the same type of practice can help reinforce social skills.

Model positive social interactions like active listening, repeating back what the first speaker says to clarify their message. Use phrases like, “What I’m hearing you say is…” to model understanding and respect. When describing how you feel, offer insight to your feelings, especially when conveying a negative emotion. Start with, “When this happens, I feel sad,” instead of “You make me sad when this happens.” This teaches children to articulate their emotions without putting blame or responsibility on others for their feelings. Into adulthood, this can help them with emotional regulation and recognizing the source of their response.

Success and Social Skills Go Hand-in-Hand

Social fluency is vital for children’s development, well-being, and future success. Children with strong social skills have healthier relationships and higher self-esteem, and they can even have better academic performance. Elevate the conversation about social fluency in your school, classroom, and with your students’ caregivers. Get everyone engaged in nurturing social fluency, and you’ll build a stronger, more confident generation.

Leave a Comment