Navigate social sticking points.
Prioritize these lessons too.
In addition to all the educational prep you’ve done to get your kid ready for “real” school, social-emotional skills will benefit him at home, in class, and in the future. He needs to know how to get along with others, express his feelings appropriately (and allow others to do the same), and handle sticky situations with his siblings and peers.
Sometimes kids act out their emotions inappropriately because they don’t understand what they’re feeling or have the vocabulary to express it. Help your child identify her emotions. Say, “I know you’re angry because we can’t have dessert before dinner.” Emotion charades is another way to build her emotional vocabulary: Take turns acting out and guessing some common feelings. Then come up with proper ways to express them, such as saying “I’m mad,” taking deep breaths, or having a time-out.
Do chores together.
This lets your child practice working with others, negotiating (“Can I set the table instead of dusting?”), handling differences of opinions (like when he thinks putting his toys under the bed is cleaning his room and you disagree), and coming up with solutions for frustrating problems (one plant isn’t growing because it doesn’t get enough sunlight). Sure, having him help may slow you down a bit, but the knowledge he’ll gain will be worth it.
Make it exciting.
Games are a fun way for children to learn about taking turns, working with a team, and winning and losing gracefully. Have frequent family game nights, and take turns filling different roles—banker, scorekeeper, snack person—each time. Keep the games fun and friendly. Yes, you can expect competitiveness, but if things get heated (cheating, sore-loser behavior, arguments between siblings), use it as an opportunity to teach your child how to handle those issues.
Use “What if … ” questions to help your child learn how to navigate some common social problems she may encounter. Ask her, “What would you
do if a friend wanted you to jump off the top of the slide with him at recess?” or “What would you say if you broke a classmate’s favorite toy?” Give her a chance to come up with responses. Depending on what she says, walk her through the steps of saying no or apologizing to her friend. When she asks you “What if … ” questions, offer good examples of empathetic behavior or how to solve problems.