Beyond the First Day Outfit: Social Skills for Academic SUCCESS


The back-to-school frenzy is in full swing and you probably have your child’s first day outfit and backpack ready. But, are your children equipped with the vital social and emotional skills to get the year kicked off on the right foot? Dr. Barbara Howard, an assistant professor of pediatrics at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and an expert on behavior and development explains, “Social skills are necessary for school success. They affect how you do on the playground, in the classroom, and ultimately at the workplace.” And even more so, they’ve been proven to increase academic performance, per a studyfrom the University of Loyola Chicago.

Here are 5 vital lessons to help prepare your kids for social and emotional success school year (expanded upon in my book, socialsklz:-) for SUCCESS)

1- We’ve all heard that we have one chance to make a first impression. So prepare your child(ren) for a great first impression with teachers. At home, show your child(ren) how to execute a firm handshake with the right hand (no “dead fish”), good eye contact, and proper body language.

2- Is the English teacher a Mr. / Ms. / Mrs.? Be sure your child is addressing his/her teachers properly and explain the difference between Mrs. and Ms. (with a zzzzz sound). A teacher should never be addressed by his/her first name or a nickname; it’s always Mr./Ms./ Mrs., unless your child is told otherwise.

3- Lunchroom behavior can leave a lasting impression. No one should talk with their mouth full, chew loudly, or dissect food like a science project. Have a fun “school lunch” at home and prepare lunch in brown paper bags for kids. Review the do’s and don’ts at the table.

4- The playground is the perfect place to make friends. Teach your kids to approach their classmates with a friendly, interested smile and how to start a conversation. Before your kids go to school they should have at least three questions prepared to ask classmates. Have fun with the exercise and role play as if you were his/her classmate-ask your child what he/she did over the summer and point out that one word answers don’t make for a great conversation!

5- Kids have heard the word “bullying” countless times and often tune out if it’s brought up. Instead, try talking about thoughtfulness and empathy with kids. All children want to have friends and an important part of making friends and keeping friends is being thoughtful and empathetic. Share a few examples of how to be that type of friend and ask kids how they can be thoughtful. At the same time talk about how to handle sticky situations when people aren’t thoughtful and empathetic. Have a strategy setup for your children to know what to do if faced with a difficult encounter.

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