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Social-Emotional Development

Social-Emotional Development

By Amy Dargart-Stewart, FCPL Early Literacy Assistant

It is well known that a child’s earliest years play an important role in their development. As parents and caregivers, something as simple as how we interact with children when they are babies can promote the growth of skills they will use for the rest of their lives. This is especially true for social-emotional skills.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Sciences’ Early Childhood Learning and Knowledge Center, social skills can be classified as a child’s ability to create and keep up relationships with others whereas emotional skills are a child’s ability to “express, recognize and manage their own emotions,” as well as appropriately respond to the emotions of others. Children begin building their social and emotional skillset as soon as they are born. Little things like smiling or talking with a baby initiates the learning process by teaching children how to trust their caregivers, as well as how to build healthy relationships with others.

Social-emotional growth takes time. Early experiences with family, caregivers and peers greatly impact this type of development. There are many ways we, as parents and caregivers, can help children learn how to manage emotions and new situations. Try these tips to help introduce healthy
social and emotional habits in your home.

  • Be a model of the emotions and behaviors you want your child to show. You are your child’s first teacher and they look up to you.
  • Be responsive to your child’s emotions and behaviors. Responding will help to develop trust between you and your child.
  • Ask open-ended questions, such as “what would you do?” to help develop problem-solving skills.
  • Use stories to talk to your child about different social situations and how each person might be feeling.
  • Encourage kids to try new things and learn how much they can do.
  • Play games to teach kids how to take turns, win and lose, share, and negotiate.
  • Ask your child questions when they are upset. These questions can be about why they are upset or offering alternatives to understand the root of their unhappiness. For example, “would you like to brush your teeth or take a bath first?”
  • Sit with your child when using a screen and make it a social activity by asking them questions or playing turn-taking games.*

* The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends parents avoid screen time, other than video calling, for children younger than 18 months old.

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