Writing isn’t only a skill that’s valued in academics and sought after by employers. It’s also an activity that can build a child’s skills and confidence. When students view writing as simply a task for school, there’s often reluctance and anxiety associated with it. When students begin to see writing as an expression of themselves, a way to explore complex issues, or a mode of stress relief, writing can become a valuable tool for improving communication, mental health, and self-esteem.
During times like these, when social interactions are still a challenge, writing can be a powerful method for children to remain connected with others, share their experiences, and find meaning in them. Writing can also be a method for sparking conversations with your child about different topics, emotions, and the nuances of socialization. Here are some writing activities that can be used to build both your child’s social skills and confidence.
Writing Activities That Build Social Awareness
Social awareness is a good foundation for building social skills. Thinking about characters and their perspectives can be a way to build social awareness in a non-threatening way. Try some of these activities as a start:
- Writing a Character Bio: Have your child write a bio about a character from a book, a movie, or even real life. Ask your child to identify the character’s strengths, challenges, goals, and interests. Developing an awareness of how characters are similar and different will help your child appreciate diversity and the importance of understanding both oneself and others.
- Rewriting from Another Perspective: Ask your child to rewrite a story or scene from a different perspective. Doing this will help your child understand that there are multiple views when observing, or participating in, social situations.
- Writing Fiction: Encourage your child to fully develop characters, human or otherwise, within fiction writing. Suggest that your child expands on descriptions beyond just physical features. Putting characters in fictional situations, and knowing their characteristics, will help your child explore the complexity of social interactions.
Writing Activities That Teach Better Communication Skills
Practicing different kinds of writing can help your child improve their communication and researching skills. Here are three types of writing that can grow specific areas of communication:
- Writing Scientific Reports: Teach your child the difference between subjective (writing from an opinion) and objective (writing from facts and observations) writing. Ask your child to write a lab report, or another scientific document, while being objective and brief. Learning how to be objective will help your child discuss sensitive topics and be aware of when emotions are getting in the way. Practicing writing in a scientific or technical way will encourage an awareness of word choice and an ability to determine what is the most important information to be conveyed.
- Writing Persuasive Essays: Have your child debate through writing and support claims with evidence or reasons. When your child can craft an argument, your child will have developed important skills that transfer to speech. Learning about logical fallacies (e.g., not using generalizations and personal attacks) can reap benefits for future social situations.
- Writing Like a Journalist: Journalists need to understand their audiences and engage them. Give your child opportunities to write like a journalist to improve your child’s abilities to consider the receiver of information and to improve storytelling abilities. Writing news or feature articles in a way that is focused on the audience can help your child develop empathy and the ability to gain perspective.
Writing Activities That Encourage Expression of Emotions
Using writing as a form of self-expression can be very powerful. You can set up opportunities for your child that can improve writing, allow your child to identify and explore emotions, and promote mental health. Whether shared or private, each of the following writing experiences can move your child toward greater awareness of emotions, both personal and in others:
- Keeping a Diary or Journal: Buy or have your child make a personalized diary or journal, and encourage some writing time in the morning or before bed. Allow your child to keep it “secret” (you can even get journals that have locks) or use it as a way to communicate with you, perhaps with you reading and responding to each entry. When your child is more aware of feelings, your child will be better equipped to understand and navigate social situations.
- Writing Poetry: Whether or not you assign particular styles of poetry, you can encourage your child to explore emotions through it. When your child is able to write poetry about feelings, your child may find ways to think about and deal with emotions in new ways.
- Writing Social Stories: Although designed for individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) as a way to better understand interpersonal communication, social stories can be an important way for your child to explore the intricacies of a particular social situation. Ask your child to describe a scenario, what the people in the situation are thinking and feeling, the sequence of events, and the script of what the people are saying or doing. Through this process, your child will be identifying social cues and what they mean and will be exploring social scenarios on a deep level.
Writing Activities That Connect Your Child with Others
Having an audience is a great way to build social skills through writing. When your child is writing for an audience, your child must be aware of the perspective of the reader. Your child can learn to communicate a message more effectively and anticipate what the reader finds interesting. These activities can help your child form connections with people through writing:
- Communicating with Penpals: Having a penpal may be a bit old-fashioned these days, but wait until you see your child’s face light up when that snail mail arrives! You can arrange a penpal through friends or family, even if they are local. Your child will learn how to communicate through writing and will have to write with a particular person in mind. See if you can link your child with a peer in another state or country to help your child learn about different communities and cultures, too!
- Participating in Online Writing Communities: Depending on your child’s age and maturity level, you may consider joining an online writing community. Platforms, like Wattpad and others, allow kids to post fan fiction and other forms of writing. Readers can then comment on their writing, and your child can learn how to safely communicate virtually (with your guidance and monitoring, of course), how to include reader input in their writing, and how to accept both positive and negative feedback.
- Posting on Social Media: Your child can also work on writing while building a virtual network of friends and family on social media. Especially now, when social interactions may be more limited, posting to social media may help to get your child connected with others. With support, your child can also learn how much to share, how to protect private information, and how social media is a way of regulating an online presence that can impact in-person social interactions.
Writing Activities That Build Confidence
One of the most important goals of any academic task should be to make sure children feel good about themselves. Having pride in accomplishments, including written work, can build confidence. Here are a few ways that the content and finished product of a writing activity can be used to increase self-esteem:
- Writing about Achievements: What better way is there to build confidence than letting your child write about successes! Have your child describe a winning game or a work of art. Ask your child to write how that medal was achieved or that project was finished. Encourage your child to explain mastery of a song or how your child got a good grade on an assignment or test. Writing about something makes it more concrete, and why wouldn’t we want our kids to focus on their strengths!
- Sharing Writing: Nothing builds confidence about writing more than having people appreciate a well-written piece. Give your child a writing task and carry it through the writing process. Then, get together with another family, a group of friends, or some relatives and have your child read the piece aloud — via Zoom if you can’t do it in-person. If that’s not possible, you can build confidence with both writing and public speaking, even within the household, by having your child read to the family. You can even create a family writing group where family members comment on what they liked about each piece.
- Publishing: Consider having your child write an editorial for a newspaper, or publish a work of creative fiction online or through other venues like literary magazines or youth writing contests. Imagine the pride both of you will have when you see your child’s name in print as the author!
Be creative! These are just some ways that writing can be used to connect our kids and build their social abilities and confidence. Help them see what writing can do for them!