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April 29, 2021

How to Develop Children’s Social and Emotional Skills

What does social emotional skills mean? 

Social emotional skills represent a child's ability to understand the feelings of others, control his own feelings and behaviors and understand how to get along with his peers.

For children to acquire the basic skills they need, they must have social and emotional skills such as cooperation, self-control and concentration. As we all know, trust, security, friendship, emotion and a sense of humor are part of the socio-emotional development of children.

In other words, a positive adult-child relationship that inspires confidence and security is the key to proper social and emotional development. As in all areas of child development, social-emotional aspects are really important in the first months and are directly related to the environment and experiences that surround the child.

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Why are social emotional skills important?

Children's social and emotional learning and development is as important as physical and cognitive development. Children are not born with social and emotional skills and it’s the responsibility of parents, educators and caregivers to teach and promote these skills.

Social and emotional development helps children understand their identity in the world, establish good relationships with others, and define their learning styles. This is what helps people communicate, connect with others, resolve conflicts, and develop self-confidence in order to achieve their goals.

According to studies, adequate social and emotional development in the early years is related to the following factors:

  • Better development in the way of expressing oneself, thinking and social skills.
  • Better adaptation to the preschool and school environment, which is directly related to better indicators of academic performance, cooperation with peers and better interpersonal relationships.
  • Fewer indicators of behavior problems in kindergarten and school; such as social isolation, aggressive behavior, hyperactivity, patterns of attention and behavior.
  • Even in adulthood, happiness and general well-being.

Social and emotional skills are needed to:

  • Recognize and understand how you feel.
  • Explain and understand the emotional state of others.
  • Manage strong emotions in a constructive way.
  • Balance your own behavior.
  • Develop the ability to empathize with others.
  • Build and maintain lasting relationships.
  • Develop the ability to trust and build relationships with others.
  • Feel satisfied with yourself and with others.
  • Feel capable of achieving the goals you set for your life.

As you can see, these skills are extremely important and useful for children during their childhood, adolescence and, of course, adulthood. Social emotional skills begin to establish in the first years of life. Maybe you didn't know it, but a one-month-old baby makes eye contact with the caregiver to stay in contact with him.

A two-month-old baby calms down and smiles when he hears the voice of one of his parents. When the person who takes care of the child talks to him, he focuses his attention on that person's face and begins to get acquainted with her. Knowing how to read and pay attention to children's signals from birth is what starts their social and emotional development.

Examples of social emotional skills

  1. Resilience

Resilience is a fundamental capacity in all humans since throughout our lives there are always hard times that we have to deal with. It can be the loss of a loved one or an illness. Each of us has experienced ups and downs at some stage in our life and it’s necessary to learn to deal with them in the best way.

For example, if your parents’ divorce and you’re a resilient person, you’ll be able to restore your physical and mental energy to overcome the crisis.

  1. Personal relationships

Learning to introduce oneself, to speak with others and to interact in a friendly way are fundamental aspects if you want to have an adaptive relationship with others. It will be more difficult to make friends if your way to communicate and relate is passive-aggressive.

  1. Perseverance

Perseverance or tenacity is the capacity to continue working towards a goal that we have set for ourselves, in the short, medium or long term. We are persistent when, despite not having the results we want, we continue working to achieve our goal.

  1. Self-knowledge

Self-knowledge means the ability to know oneself, both emotionally and cognitively. It’s the ability to know what you are feeling at all times, to make realistic evaluations in relation to your own abilities and to know what you’re good at and in what areas you have difficulties.

This skill includes aspects related to emotional intelligence, specifically intrapersonal intelligence, and also cognitive aspects. Emotional self-management, which is closely related to self-knowledge, is the ability to identify your emotions and use them as drivers to reach a goal.

  1. Assertive communication

It’s a useful communication style for any situation, as it consists of communicating what you want openly and without hurting others.

  1. Responsible decision-making

During childhood it can be a bit complicated to instill, but educating children to make responsible decisions is fundamental. Throughout life, there are different situations in which you have to decide which path to choose. One may involve more risks than the other, but also more benefits, or vice versa. Learning to decide correctly, without relying on impulses and based on objective criteria is a great way to avoid disappointment or regrets in the future.

  1. Collaboration

Collaboration is the ability to know how to work as a team and coordinate with others to achieve a common goal.

  1. Social awareness

Social awareness is the understanding that others also feel emotions and go through stages. Being socially conscious is understanding that we are not alone in the world and that, just like others have obligations and rights, so do we.

How do you promote a child’s social and emotional development? 

It’s very important to focus on enhancing social emotional skills during childhood. Whether at home or at school, boys and girls must learn how to relate with others and learn how to manage their emotions to achieve their goals.

The main objective of a good education is the social adaptation of the person: to promote their integration into society, to learn to interact with others or to develop different ways of feeling, acting and thinking. All these qualities are vital so that, in adulthood, the person can fit into society.

During the preschool years and first years of primary school, empathy and collaboration are two skills that should take higher priority than resilience, which can be introduced after the end of primary school. Help your students succeed by teaching them to get organized early.

Here are some ways to develop social emotional skills in children:

Establish clear rules

When parents teach their children rules, it’s easier for them to act accordingly.

Explain what is expected of them

Sometimes children don’t know how to act in certain situations, so it’s important to explain what is expected of them in different contexts.

Encourage dialogue

It’s important to make space to talk, share experiences and emotions within the family environment.

Talk openly about conflicts

The idea is not to solve the problem or tell your child what to do, but to provide the necessary tools for him to solve the issue.

Show affection

If parents are affectionate and loving, they will motivate the child to act in the same way.

Promote autonomy

It’s important that the child feels accompanied but he should also be able to gradually resolve social situations by himself.

Unconditional support

A child who feels supported by its parents will have better interpersonal skills and will be able to behave properly in social environments.

What activities promote social development?

The best way to develop social emotional skills in children is to be natural and fun in everyday contexts. For example, board games can be very useful to teach children to take turns, pay attention and listen to others. Books, cartoons, and movies can also be helpful tools for building empathy. You can ask the children what each of the characters feel and what makes them feel that way. Role-play is also really useful to promote assertiveness.

The classic game "Simon Says" is an ideal activity to work on the ability to follow instructions. Dynamic games like blindfolding and being guided by a partner will boost interpersonal trust. Learn how to form good habits for students.

Above all, you must remember that the family is the main influence for social skills and parents are the main reference figures for children. Therefore, the parents' own behavior will be the best guide for children.

How can you support social and emotional development in the classroom? 

Here are some strategies to promote social and emotional development in the classroom.

Teach social emotional skills explicitly

For example, a “plan, do, review” sequence can be implemented. This means: planning, executing, and reviewing an assignment with teachers and other students.

Use social emotional language

Teachers can motivate their students using specific language that encourages effort and work and promotes positive affirmation. This will help them compare their present reality with the future they want and feel more confident that they can achieve it.

Improve interaction between teachers and students

By showing interest in students’ lives, teachers make students feel supported to develop with more confidence.

Promote cooperative learning

Teachers should encourage their group to work together actively and meaningfully. This will help them develop interpersonal and collaboration skills.

Define expectations using positive language

Labeling students' performance positively will increase their self-esteem, confidence, and shape their educational decisions.

Improve classroom management

This will contribute to improving self-efficacy in teaching and classroom organization. It will also encourage student participation, decrease disruptive behaviors that affect learning, and create a nicer environment. It’s important to understand that the way students learn is as important as what they learn.

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