5 Ways to Promote Social and Emotional Development in Young Children

What is social and emotional learning, and why is it important? In a nutshell, it’s recognizing our emotions, having some control over them, having empathy for others, handling conflict well, and making good choices about personal and social behavior. These skills are critical to school (and life) success. Believe it or not, these things need to be taught and the best time to begin is early! Guess what else: YOU are your child’s best teacher. So lets see how we can start.

1. Self-Awareness

This just means recognizing your own emotions. To promote your baby’s self-awareness, start at birth by responding positively to his cries. This will help him feel secure and safe. Babies need attention, patience, and lots of face-to-face time. In the toddler years, help him identify and name his emotions. When he’s showing signs of a tantrum, talk to him about feeling frustrated and encourage him to begin labeling how he feels. This will free him to understand and regulate his own emotions.

2. Self-Management

This is simply learning to control your own emotions and behavior.  As your child learns to label her emotions, you can begin to teach her how to control them rather than letting her emotions control her. Toddlers need an example to follow; model for her how you control your own emotions and how you address them in healthy ways (taking a time-out, meditation, prayer, a deep breath, counting to 10). Also, pay attention to how you interact with other adults in the home. Constant tension between her caregivers creates a sense of insecurity which can lead to behavioral problems once she’s in school.

3.  Social Awareness

Show empathy and understanding towards others. Help your toddler learn empathy by listening well to him and encouraging him to listen well to others. Encourage his curiosity and sociability by engaging in your community.  Take him with you as you run errands and interact with others. Model for him appropriate ways to interact with people who are different from you. Knowing how to positively engage with others and understand their feelings will have lifelong benefits.

4.  Relationship Skills

Successful relationships require the ability to handle conflicts responsibly. Again, you are the example your child will follow most closely. Teach her to respect people’s differences, resist comparing her to other children, and most importantly, apologize when you mess up.

5.  Responsible Decision Making

Making positive choices about personal and social behavior will be key to your child’s success in life. Encourage a healthy sense of self-esteem by giving him responsibilities at home and allowing him to make age-appropriate choices on his own. Show him your appreciation when he helps around the house. He wants your attention. Praise him and encourage him positively as often as you can. Let your positive comments far outweigh your negative ones. It will do wonders for his self-esteem.

We at the Urban Child Institute feel that a child’s earliest experiences are especially important, because her brain is developing faster in the first three years than at any other time in her life. Helping your child develop socially and emotionally will actually help her succeed in school and reach her potential. Start early and reap a lifetime of benefits.

The First Years Last a Lifetime.TM