Social and emotional development in children is crucial to set a healthy basis for mental health and cognitive skills later in life. The first five years of your child’s life is the time to teach social and emotional skills to help her succeed later on. Between 9 1/2 and 14 percent of all children younger than 5 years old experience social and emotional problems that negatively affect their functioning, according to the National Center for Children in Poverty. You can help your child develop socially and emotionally by modeling good behavior and exposing your child to many different people and situations.
Show affection and nurture your child. Touching, holding, rocking and singing to your baby can help her feel love and develop emotionally. Although it may not always be easy to show affection, even children going through the terrible twos need nurturing.
Teach appropriate conflict resolution and problem solving to your child. Toddlers have a difficult time expressing feelings, which is why they act out with tantrums. Help your child name and express feelings. Teach him how to control his impulses.
Model appropriate social and emotional behavior for your child. Avoid physical punishment, yelling or losing your temper with your child or others. Name your feelings so your child can understand. You can also point out other people’s behavior on television or in books and talk to your child about their possible emotions.
Enroll your child in preschool. Preschool is a place where children can learn social skills and become more prepared for kindergarten. Nearly 20 percent of children entering kindergarten do not have the necessary social and emotional skills, according to the National Institute for Early Education Research.
Limit television, video games and computer time. These mediums take away from real social interaction. When your child does watch television, make it more interactive by talking to her about what she watches.
Teach your child to appreciate people’s differences and cultures. Young children do not have the social skills to refrain from saying out loud everything they are thinking about. You can show your child that everyone deserves respect, regardless of skin color, age, size and gender.
- If you need help to increase social and emotional development in your child, consult a mental health professional.
- National Center for Children in Poverty: Social-emotional Development in Early Childhood
- Speaking for Children: Tips on Nurturing Your Child's Social-Emotional Development
- Center for the Study of Social Policy: Strengthening Families Through Early Care and Education
- National Institute for Early Education Research: Promoting Children’s Social and Emotional Development Through Preschool Education
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