Social Emotional Health and Our Children
Throughout our lives we are continually shaped by our experiences. Our interactions with the world rely on our social-emotional skills. How we respond when meeting new people, overcoming difficult situations, or expressing our own feelings of joy or disappointment can be influenced by our caregivers.
Even infants pick up on how you respond to their social and emotional needs. They notice how safe they feel at home and in your presence. Children learn how to feel empathy, recognize emotions and say “I’m sorry” by following your lead. By intentionally teaching social emotional skills to your children, you provide the tools to help them throughout their lives.
Teaching social emotional skills helps all children manage their behavior by guiding and supporting them to:
1) persist when frustrated;
2) play cooperatively with other children;
3) use language to communicate needs;
4) learn turn taking;
5) gain control of physical impulses;
6) express negative emotions in safe ways;
7) use problem-solving techniques; and
8) learn about themselves and others.
Some easy ways to teach these skills to your children:
- Be a model of the emotions and behaviors you want children to show, this includes naming and modeling reactions to positive and hard emotions.
- Use self-regulation techniques you want children to use, this could be practicing deep breaths or going to a quiet space.
- Respond and validate all children’s emotions. Encourage their expression of emotions in a safe way. If a child is upset that his cracker broke at snack, let him know that you understand how that is upsetting (even if it might seem meaningless to you), your empathy will help develop trust between you and the child. We all have hot buttons in behavior, be proactive by recognizing your own feelings. Before responding pause and think about what that child needs.
- Providing choices can assist you in understand the root of their unhappiness. For example, a child is upset over not having a toy, you can provide a choice “Would you like to play with blocks instead of the doll or wait for your turn?” This will help children gain decision making skills, confidence, self-esteem, independence.
- Ask open-ended questions, such as “What would you do (in this situation or that situation)?” to help develop problem-solving skills.
- Encourage kids to try new things so they can learn how much they can do on their own.
- Use books or “social stories” those that are specific to a child or situation to talk about different feelings and reactions.
- Emotion cards are another visual way to help children see and label feelings. They can be used throughout the day as a check-in or a way to explore how different feelings look.
- Games are a fun way to teach kids how to take turns, develop persistence, gain self-control, win and lose, share, and negotiate. Some social emotional skill building games include follow the leader, go fish, hide and find an object, and many, many more.
For more support and information:
https://www.familytreemd.org/BCCCRC – Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health Consultants work with you and your child’s early learning program to support social-emotional, developmental, and behavior.
https://www.mdpyramidmodelsefel.org/ – The Pyramid Model for Social Emotional Competence in Infants and Young Children provides an evidence-based framework for promoting and supporting infant and early childhood mental health and social emotional development of all children in child care.
Navigating parenting today can be hard, but we are here to support you! If you have questions about parenting in general, call our 24/7 Parenting HelpLine: 1-800-243-7337.