When Elizabeth Worley of Flip Educational Consulting emailed me about her social skills camps for kids, I was intrigued.
The camps for ages 6 to 11 are designed for all kinds of kids, who learn how to regulate their emotions and more. The camps are offered in Raleigh and Cary this summer.
Worley and Edla Prevette, who both work with Project Enlightenment as well, make up Flip Educational Consulting. Flip offers training for teachers and parents of school-age kids. Sessions include how to parent stressed children; power struggles; and more connecting and less correcting. Check the website for more information and to register for the camp.
I checked in with Worley and Prevette to learn more about their social skills camps, now offered for the third year. Here's our (email) chat.
Go Ask Mom: Tell me more about your social skills camp. These are designed for kids with all kinds of personalities?
Flip: All kinds of children benefit from a social skills camp. Shy, timid children learn how to be more assertive. Rambunctious children learn to settle their bodies. Strong-willed children learn how to negotiate and be flexible. Sensitive, anxious children learn to better understand and take care of their needs. Socially distant children are given tools to be more connected.
GAM: Why did you begin offering them?
Flip: As we work with early childhood teachers and preschool and kindergarten families through Project Enlightenment, we see first-hand the importance of children’s healthy social and emotional development, which can impact them academically and socially for the rest of their lives. We also notice that there are fewer resources for school age children in the community, especially for those children who may not have serious developmental delays. Some children just need support around their social skills, just as others need support around learning to read.
GAM: What do kids do during the camp?
Flip: We engage children in intentional activities to promote and practice social skills. These activities include outside games, cooperative free play activities, reading stories with social themes, eating snack and/or lunch together to practice positive social interaction. All activities are chosen with the participants in mind, so no sessions are the same. There are some pre-requisite skills that are basic to social interaction, like being able to sustain a conversation or join in play, but there are also subtle skills that children are missing, and we also focus on these skills that individual children need. We conference with each parent before and after the group to discuss specific strategies and insights gained during the group. During the course of the group, the facilitators are fully engaged with the children, coaching social skills in context. Parents are given daily feedback on the activities and skill focus of the session.
One skill that can be difficult for shy children is greeting other people. Adults often expect the child to say “hello” but the child will often turn away or hide. What can be more helpful is to give the child a tool to allow him or her to be socially appropriate in a manner that is most comfortable. So instead, we might remind the child that he can smile, nod. Or wave when meeting a new person. Same result; different approach.
Negotiating during play is another area of difficulty in which many children struggle. Turn-taking and the nuances of social negotiating become more sophisticated as children get older. It is important to acknowledge to the child that it is hard to wait or be flexible when you have strong feelings about what you want. After reflecting the feeling, help him or her come up with ways to take turns by setting a time limit or negotiating various ways to play an activity or game.
GAM: What should parents be doing more of to teach and emphasize social skills at home?
Flip: Teaching social skills is a lifelong activity for parents. What parents do speaks so much more loudly to children than what they say, so modeling is very important. They are always listening to how you interact socially with others and will often respond to others the way they see you respond. Helping children read the facial expression of others is important, along with reading stories that will enable children to identify with characters’ feelings or actions in social situations. Reflecting children’s feelings is also helpful. If children can understand their own feelings, they can then develop empathy for the feelings of others.
GAM: What kind of advice do you have for parents with children who have the same or opposite personalities?
Flip: Learning more about temperament is really important. Being able to identify your own temperament, as well as your child’s, gives you a basis for understanding his or her behavior. Building relationship with your child is also very important, so you may need to engage in activities your child enjoys but that may not be your very favorite thing to do.
GAM: Why are social skills so important for children to develop early on?
Flip: The sooner children learn social skills, which include the ability to regulate their emotions, the better they are at negotiating the challenges of the world. These skills become integrated and become the building blocks of their self-concept. According to the Lionheart Project on Emotional Literacy, “When people develop emotional literacy, they are better able to identify, express, and manage their feelings. There are greater options for effectively dealing with stress and tension. There is greater impulse control. There is heightened self-awareness and self-understanding. Social skills and the ability to communicate effectively are enhanced. Consequently, behaviors and attitudes that arise from emotional literacy support and reflect self-esteem, empathy, and appropriate action in the world.”