Social Skills How to Help Your Seven-Year-Old Build Social Problem-Solving Skills

At age seven, kids develop stronger and more stable friendships and social conflict among friends becomes inevitable. In fact, kids are more likely to have conflict with close friends than with acquaintances because they spend more time with friends and have to negotiate different opinions, temperaments, and styles of play. The good news is kids this age are highly motivated to solve these social problems because they care about the relationships. As parents, we can help children learn how to collaborate, cooperate, communicate, negotiate, self-advocate and respect others.

Encourage your child to solve conflicts peacefully:

Practice Clear Communication

To help children communicate their thoughts and feelings with family and peers, teach them how to state directly how they are feeling in a particular situation. One technique is the "I" statement: "I feel _______ (insert feeling word) when _____ (share what caused this feeling)." These statements open up the door to honest communication, authentic apologies and creative problem solving. Here are some examples of how "I" statements can be used social situations. 

  • I feel mad when my little sister goes into my room without asking me first.
  • I felt sad when you formed a group at recess and didn't include me.
  • I got upset when you caught the ball because I wanted to catch it. I'm sorry I yelled and ran off the field.

Encourage Problem Solving

When you are helping your child think through a conflict with a peer or family member, empower them to come up with solutions. First, have them describe the problem — identifying the source of conflict is an important step. Then ask open-ended questions such as "What could we do to make the situation better?"; "What would be a fair solution?"; "What's one thing you could do to help your friend feel better?" Enlist their imagination: "If you could wave a magic wand and fix this problem, what would it look like?" If children can imagine an outcome, they can begin to take steps to reach that goal. 

Role-Play: How to “Make Up”

Knowing how to resolve conflicts between friends can be difficult for children. Help your child establish good conflict resolution skills by brainstorming and role-playing solutions to possible scenarios.

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"Tell a Grown-Up"

From an early age, remind children that there are times they can solve problems on their own, but there are also times when it's very important to get help from a parent, teacher or trusted adult. If they feel unsafe, if someone is hurting them physically or emotionally, if they see someone else being hurt or if they have tried to solve a situation independently but it didn't work, they should "tell an adult." 

Talk About How to Disagree Respectfully

When your child doesn't see eye-to-eye with a peer, you can remind your child that sometimes friends don't agree on certain things — and that's okay. Even people who like each other a lot can have different opinions, likes or interests. But even when we disagree, we should always treat other people with respect and dignity. That means we DON'T call people names, ignore them, yell at them or hit them. That means we DO look for solutions that respect both parties, we do apologize when our actions hurt someone else and we do treat people with kindness.

Help Your Child Manage Emotions with Arthur

Whether facing down a bully, worrying about a new teacher or being the very last person on earth to lose his baby teeth, Arthur and his friends manage to solve their crises with imagination, kindness and a lot of humor.

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Activity Finder: Learn With Your Seven-Year-Old

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