Life’s Most Important Skill


We’ve all been there, haven’t we? We take our seat at an important dinner and realize we know absolutely no one at the table. It feels awkward, intimidating, downright uncomfortable – what do we do or say now? If we have life’s basic people skills, we’ll be fine. The awkwardness will pass in seconds, we’ll assess the situation, tell ourselves it’s an opportunity to meet new people, and begin the introductions. Within seconds, our social skills will kick in and we can even have a good time.

What if a young child is confronted with a situation like that? Let’s face it: The rules of social relationships are undefined and often vague, and yet, knowledge of these rules is a lifelong skill. Some children seem to be born knowing how to navigate relationships with peers and adults. Many others don’t manage to pick up this knowledge on their own. They’re the ones standing on the sidelines at recess or pleading with friends, “Can I play, too?” These children may be highly intelligent academically, they may face some challenges with behavior or learning issues, or perhaps their environment is not conducive to learning social skills. Whatever the reason, children who don’t learn social skills by watching and interacting with friends or by osmosis, need to acquire the know-how to get along with others. The adults in their lives – parents and teachers, especially – can teach these life skills to their children and students.

At SHEMESH, we recognize that socially savvy is the most important life skill a child can acquire. Being socially adept is a basic component of happiness and satisfaction; having the confidence to start a conversation, to handle a difficult situation, to ask for help, or offer help to someone else with tact and diplomacy – these are the ingredients of all relationships. The good news is, these skills are teachable and they can be acquired by anyone willing to learn and practice them.

This is why SHEMESH brought the author and speaker Dr. Eileen Kennedy-Moore to address the topic, “Five People Skills Every Child Needs to Learn.” She taught the audience, comprised of parents, teachers, special educators, and administrators, the five skills and how to help children learn them. Many individuals came forward and said that they, too, struggle as adults with some of these skills. Reaching out to others; recognizing signals from others; knowing how to blend in seamlessly and become part of a team; letting go of perfection and rules and learning how to be dan lekaf zechus; and speaking up, even when being teased – these are the tools everybody needs, children and adults alike.

With the enthusiastic and grateful response to Dr. Kennedy-Moore’s presentation, including the attendance of approximately 100 people, we are happy to continue the conversation on this topic with our next event: the Rick Lavoie video presentation, “It’s So Much Work to Be Your Friend.” While the subtitle is, “Helping the Child with Learning Disabilities Find Social Success,” the content is actually directed at helping teachers and parents teach the important social skills to any and every child.

SHEMESH is especially pleased to present this video during Jewish Disability Awareness Month, a time to think about looking beyond the labels we place on people and learning instead to focus on each individual, who was given gifts by Hakadosh Boruch Hu to contribute to society and wants nothing more than acceptance and inclusion in our community. We look forward to greeting you on Monday, February 23, at 7:30 p.m. at the Park Heights JCC Community Room.

We are also happy to announce another important event: Dr. Barbara Howard will address our joint SHEMESH/CHADD meeting about sleep issues of children with ADD/ADHD on February 4. We will meet at the Park Heights JCC, at 8:00 to 9:00 p.m. There is no charge.

SHEMESH remains committed to helping Jewish children with learning differences reach their full intellectual, academic, emotional, and social potential, and to helping those who teach them – parents, educators, principals, and special educators – learn and continue to develop their skills to guide all of our children in the process of becoming vital members of the Jewish community.




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