Effective communication relies on a basic set of conventions. Children who make and keep friends have mastered these necessary social skills.
- Making eye contact.
Why it's important: Others know you are speaking and listening to them when you look at them.
How to encourage: Talk face-to-face with your child. Using puppets is a non-threatening way to encourage shy children to look at people when they are speaking.
- Taking turns in a conversation.
Why it's important: Children need to learn how to interpret the signs a speaker gives — nonverbal cues, facial expressions, and changes in voice tone — when she is finished talking. If you don't wait long enough, you can interrupt. If you wait too long, someone else will jump in.
How to encourage: Provide opportunities for lots of peer interaction (setting up playdates, for example).
- Resolving conflicts.
Why it's important: Children who negotiate verbally with others know how to consider another person's words, wants, and needs.
How to encourage: When an argument erupts, it's helpful to draw your child aside and ask, "What's happening? A few minutes ago you and Josh were playing happily in the sandbox, but now that's changed. What can we do about it?" This interaction shows that you are tuned in to your child, that you respect his opinions, and that you are a trusted person who is there to help.