Wellspring Center for Prevention developed a program called Footprints for Life that provides children the opportunity to build and practice positive life skills. There are five social competencies addressed in the program that every child needs to succeed. Here's what they are, and why they're so important to develop.
It's necessary for children to learn how to make decisions that keep them out of harm's way while maintaining positive relationships with others. To make these types of decisions, children need to be aware of what they can say and anticipate others' possible reactions. Adults should teach children how to respond when facing difficult choices, how to address and voice their discomfort, and how to leave a dangerous situation. It's important for children to be able to plan a response when in a given situation or faced with a difficult decision by providing examples and role-playing possible scenarios ahead of time.
Children need to learn interpersonal skills in order to build positive relationships with others and choose their company wisely. These skills include problem solving, asking the right questions, listening with an open mind, understanding what others are saying and feeling, and clearly communicating (verbally and nonverbally). If children maintain relationships with others that make them feel supported and cared for, they're more likely to reciprocate that, and less likely to give into peer pressure or engage in harmful behaviors.
The ability to understand their own culture and others' cultures can help children build deeper, more meaningful relationships with others. Not every person comes from the same background, and if children don't learn about and understand cultures different from their own, they will face more difficulties when trying to resolve conflicts, relate to others, and maintain positive social interactions. It's also important to society at large that our children develop an understanding and respect for all cultures, carrying that into adulthood
Children should understand how to communicate their feelings clearly and know when and how to say "no." If someone is pressuring them to do something they are uncomfortable doing or they know is wrong, it's important for children to be able to find their voice and speak up. Teaching children how to handle peer pressure and practicing real-life scenarios they might find themselves in is crucial to their growth. It's also important to communicate with children about when they should seek adult help or what to do if a situation becomes dangerous.
Every child is going to encounter conflict, but it's how they deal with it that matters. Children must learn how to talk things through, make decisions that consider themselves and the other person, have empathy and come to conversations with an open mind, and to articulate their feelings. It is crucial for children to develop conflict resolution skills so that they can maintain positive relationships, regulate their emotions, and prevent harmful coping mechanisms.