The Importance of Social-Emotional Development in Children

Our babies seem to grow in the blink of an eye. One day, they’re a small, tight-knit baby who depends on us for everything, and then suddenly they’re a big kid who can navigate the world on their own. Watching our children develop is amazing and bittersweet, watching as they grow and change. Many parents want to monitor or monitor their child’s social-emotional development to make sure they are on track.

Some important milestones are easy to observe, such as watching your child learn to roll over and then solidify this skill until they crawl and eventually walk. Other areas of development are a bit more hidden, because it’s about changing their invisible, inner world — how their thoughts, emotions, and social skills change and change over time. With that in mind, let’s look at social-emotional development in children.

What is Social-Emotional Development?

As mentioned, there are different domains of child development, including social-emotional development. It is a gradual process that begins at birth and is a lifelong journey. It covers two different areas — one refers to how our children develop an understanding of their emotions (emotional development), including how they express and manage them. The second is related to how they create meaningful relationships with people in their world (social development).1

Social-emotional skills generally encompass five main areas:2

  • Self awareness: This includes recognizing your emotions, as well as the connection between your thoughts, feelings, and behavior (action/reaction).
  • Self-regulation (or self-management): Use information about emotions to control oneself.
  • Responsible decision making: This refers to the ability to make good decisions when it comes to your behavior and interactions with others.
  • social awareness: It includes an element of empathy or the ability to understand the perspectives of others (their needs, wants, feelings, etc.).
  • Relationship skills: This means having the right skills to build and maintain healthy relationships.

Why Is Social-Emotional Development Important?

Now that we know more about social and emotional development, it is important to understand why it is an important element of development. Social-emotional skills help children better understand themselves and others around them. Once they have this knowledge, they can use it to help manage their emotions, meet their needs, and create and achieve goals.3,4 This in turn can help children move on when they experience challenges or seek support and help in healthy and adaptive ways. Their social and emotional development in early life has a direct impact on them emotionally, socially, academically, and professionally later in life.3

Direct benefits from having high social-emotional skills include:3,4

  • Higher educational achievement
  • Professional success (more likely to work)
  • More likely to be involved in crime or use substances
  • Become stronger and better manage challenges
  • Experience better and more positive relationships with others
  • Manage stress
  • Have greater empathy
  • Can make smarter decisions
  • Have better self-control and self-control skills

How the Family Can Help With Social-Emotional Development

Although we are naturally social creatures and need relationships to feel safe and secure, social-emotional skills are still something we need to actively learn.3 Social skills are taught through interactions, relationships, and repetition (over time and through practice). Thus, families must support their child’s social-emotional development. Strategies that can help include:

Use Correct Language

Talk about emotions, name them when you see your child express them, name your feelings, and give them different words. . . it’s about exposure. The more words your child has or exposure to different terms, the more likely they will be able to match their experience with an emotion word (ie, I feel frustrated vs. I feel angry). The closer the match, the easier it is to seek help or support and manage the feeling appropriately.5

Be Emotionally Accepting

Life doesn't come with a manual, it comes with mom.  Rearview shot of a young woman and her daughter talking on the balcony.

It shows acceptance when you feel comfortable talking about and exploring your child’s feelings. This means your child will likely feel more comfortable sharing their feelings with you and won’t be afraid or avoid their emotions (which can cause issues later on).

Model the Skills

Show them your social-emotional development skills by sharing your feelings. Although we don’t want our children to feel responsible for our feelings, we should name our emotions and share how we manage them. It is also important that we show how we understand the problem at hand and how we solve the problem, meet our needs, control or manage feelings, etc. Our children are little sponges; we must “walk the walk” and show them how it’s done.5

Teach Them to Manage Emotions

This includes naming them and finding appropriate ways to cope or manage the feelings they are experiencing.5 For example, if they are angry, can you teach them to redirect their energy and squeeze playdough instead of breaking their toys? Or, if they are sad, can they ask for a hug or read a book that cheers them up instead of withdrawing?

Reading About Situations

Speaking of books, have your child read a variety of books with plots centered around social-emotional situations. Reading is a great, pressure-free way of exposing children to different situations. They can safely consider the views of others and build a bank of knowledge on different situations to apply to their own lives/circumstances.6

Practice makes perfect! Children need the opportunity to see social-emotional skills and have the opportunity to practice and develop them. Although these skills may be invisible, and you cannot observe or measure their progress in the same way you can measure height or see the first shaky step they take, they are just as important, if nothing more, in the long run of our children. Health and wellness.

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