From infancy through maturity, social-emotional skills intertwine with all aspects of life. These skills allow us to communicate our ideas, wants, and needs, build relationships, handle conflict effectively, and express emotions. Thus, your child must nurture them as early as possible.
Whether you’re an early childhood educator or parent, here are some great tips to support your child’s social-emotional development early enough.
Let Them Learn Through Play
Kids practice their social-emotional skills when playing. Thus, providing your kid with enough opportunities to play is crucial. Playtime should take different forms, including independent play, imaginative games, nature play, etc. Just be creative with it.
Allow Them to Experience Emotions
It’s common for parents or caregivers to say, “don’t be angry or sad,” or “calm down, my baby,” whenever their children experience big emotions. But this isn’t the best approach, as it teaches them that some feelings are wrong and they shouldn’t share or express them.
Instead, teach them to identify, name, and work through the feeling they’re currently experiencing. Here are some examples:
“When Ken grabbed your bike, you cried. It must’ve been hard for him to snatch it from you that way. Were you sad? How are you feeling now that he’s returned it?”
“I see Alice stepped on your book. It doesn’t feel nice when somebody steps on your stuff, right? How did you feel?”
Explore different feeling words with your child, so they can better understand and express their emotions.
Practice Mindfulness with Your Kid
When you teach your child mindfulness techniques, you equip them with the right tools to manage stress, build their self-esteem, and navigate challenges competently. Fortunately, it’s fun and easy to infuse your little one’s life with mindfulness.
The goal is to make them understand that it’s okay to process their emotions and help them build on this skill through practice. For instance, teach your child to drink water slowly, take a few deep breaths, hug a stuffed animal, or count to five.
Communicate Expectations in Advance
Your child will feel reassured when they know what to expect from situations. So before you move on to a new activity, communicate two simple expectations or rules to ease anxiety and enable a seamless transition.
For instance, before you read them their favorite bedtime stories for kids, you might tell them, “Before we begin, what should we remember? Listen and understand. Lie down and rest or go to sleep if you feel exhausted.” After they’ve heard the rules, repeat them partially to see if they can say them with you.
Avoid Solving All Their Problems
While helping your little one may seem like the right thing, solving all of your child’s problems can do more harm than good. Many teens and children lack self-confidence or act out because they can’t solve problems effectively because they always rely on their parent’s or caregivers’ assistance on almost everything.
So avoid rushing to help your child when problems arise. Instead, allow them to walk through the challenges independently, like resolving a conflict or reaching a toy a distance away. Only step in when the situation is unsafe.
Let Them Share Their Opinions and Ideas
Teaching your child the voting concept is a great way to encourage shared decision-making and respect. Whenever you want to decide on a shared experience (travel, snack, play, etc.), have them share their views and vote to determine the outcome. Include any idea that doesn’t win in the next session.