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Social Skills - Strategies to support my child (Occupational Therapy)

I am Melissa, a Paediatric Occupational Therapist with a passion for working in Paediatrics and supporting child development. I have been running my practice Connecting Together for 3 years now, and it has grown greatly in the past year (COVID aside). This E book was created as I work a lot on Social skills and Emotional Regulation goals with my clients and families, it is the biggest goal area. So I wanted to share some ideas you can do at home to support your child and their Social and emotional Development. I hope you enjoy these, if you have any questions do not hesitate to contact.

1. Emotional Regulation

Emotional regulation or self regulation is the ability to monitor and modulate which emotions one has, when you have them, and how you experience and express them.

Emotions, Emotions, Emotions !!

We all feel them, but for our children they need our support to learn HOW to self-regulate and how to manage their big emotions.

Begin with identifying emotions in yourself and others, from childrens movies or story books, talk and express how we can tell they feel this emotion.

Then we begin to identify it in ourselves, 'oh mummy is showing her sad face, she may feel sad, we can give her a hug to help her feel better".

Modelling how to manage and what we can do when we feel this is the MOST effective way to teach our children emotional regulation and strategies to manage.

Give it a go!

2. Unexpected vs Expected Behaviours

For the child...

Working through expected and unexpected behaviours, what is expected of us in certain environments and why, again another abstract social need.

•Expected Behaviours: Behaviours typically seen in various settings:classroom, playground, cafeteria, hallways, specials, etc

•Unexpected Behaviours: Behaviours not typically seen in the same settings.

Sometimes our children may be acting the way they do as they do not know what is expected of them in a social setting, e.g supermarket.Social stories, or book of what we can do in that space (visuals) can really support this.

For parents/teachers...

Most importantly we need to understand the function of the behaviour.

In the ways they currently know how, your child is communicating any of these 4 areas through their "behaviour", if we understand this we can support them,

1) Communication: Your child is trying to communicate their want and needs

2) Attention: Your child is seeking attention from others

3) Tangible Object: Your child wants an object, food, iPad or toys

4) Sensory: Your child is seeking, avoiding, or sensitive to sensory inputs in their environment.

3. Working in a group

1. Help them learn social cues, meanings, facials and body language

2. Encourage them to participate in an activity they enjoy/want to do with other children

3. Talk through social challenges, with your child

4. Always use your child's interests and do not force them to do anything they do not want to do

Social skills is most effectively taught or learnt in a group, this is because so much natural social expression happens here,and unexpected behaviours, which we can use as learning opportunities. We can guide our children in the beginning with turn taking,and practicing a reciprocal (back and forth conversation), but once they have the skill we need a group space they can apply this on there own and a safe space they can talk to someone about any situations they may not have understood.

There are so many social skill when we really list them out,

  • turn taking

  • joint attention

  • personal space

  • interpreting facial and body language

  • conversational skills

  • making friends

  • eye contact

If we have not covered what you wanted to know about in this E book please contact us, we always tailor or social media content to what parents want to know more on, so if you let us know we can share some free information.

What can I do?

The most important thing to do is to seek professional help if you are unsure, it may be best to start with talking with the schoolteacher, or daycare teacher who may be able to guide with some ideas or people to contact.


There is also the question of neuro-developmental diagnosis, such as Autism or ADHD, and how these may impact your child social and emotional learning. Again, it is really important to speak to someone with knowledge and experience in neurodivergence to be able to support your family goals and support your child's social skills growth.

Keep an eye out on our website events are shared here, which include social skills holiday programme Socially Together, a successful social and emotional skills programme for children.

Plus we looking to provide Social skills online with support from a Speech Language Therapist.

Stay tuned or contact if you have any questions.

Poroporoaki hoki inaianei,

Melissa Walker-Tate (Occupational Therapist).

Connecting Together Ltd.

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