As soon as children begin interacting with others, they learn about communication, listening, and decision-making. As a parent or guardian, it's important to guide your children through these skills to support healthy development. Here are some reasons why you should help your child develop interpersonal skills.
As children master language and nonverbal cues, they also need to learn how to use them appropriately and honestly. These skills are the foundation of building healthy relationships, which have lasting positive effects on overall wellbeing. Healthy relationships inspire growth and helpful behaviors.
Good communication in relationships involves careful listening, considerate decision-making and negotiation, and understanding the best ways to use words and actions to express feelings and beliefs. You can help children practice these skills by modeling openness and awareness in your relationship with them.
Younger children first learn boundaries through physical space, and as they age, they learn how verbal and nonverbal communication add to ideas about spaces and limits.
To begin setting boundaries for themselves, children need to develop healthy assertiveness and not be ridiculed for doing so. An assertive child should be able to stand up for themself and be clear in expressing their needs without being deemed "bossy." With the right amount of assertiveness, a child can reject situations that aren't in line with their beliefs and participate in activities that serve their wellbeing instead.
By interacting with others in healthy, peaceful ways, children improve their understanding of themselves. They develop this through recognizing that the world has many perspectives — not just their own.
Developing a reflective, broader perspective requires maturity, so this is something you'll need to guide your children through. Provide safe, nonjudgmental ways to view conversations and situations through different perspectives.
Children who don't have well-developed interpersonal skills are at risk for turning to drug or alcohol use. They may not be able to reject harmful activities (like drinking at a party) or may learn to use substances as a solution to conflicts that can be resolved with open communication, listening, and appropriate compromise.
Children learn strategies and skills that help them avoid substance use from the people around them. As an important part of your child's social support system, make sure you understand your child's strengths, and be ready to address any concerns.
If your child develops strong interpersonal skills, that doesn't mean they won't face challenges, but they will be able to regulate the emotions that come with them. Emotional regulation has life-long effects, and good communication and thoughtful decision-making improve the practice, allowing children to form better, empathetic bonds with others — and themselves.
By recognizing needs for self care and emotional wellbeing, children will benefit in many aspects of their lives.
As a parent, it's your job to help your child develop important life skills and guide them through difficult times and developmental stages. Read Wellspring's Parentally Speaking Blog - Helping Parents & Their Children to get more tips on setting your child up for success.