Purposeful Parenting Month: Encouraging Social Development in Children
Social and emotionally intelligent people are able to understand their own feelings and behaviours, as well as those of others, and can apply this knowledge to their interactions and relationships. Research has shown that those with high social-emotional intelligence not only have more secure relationships but also better attention skills and fewer learning problems, and are generally more successful in academic and workplace settings.
Believe it or not, the ability to feel good about oneself, to get along with others and to recognise, express and manage one’s feelings are skills that need to be taught. And the best time to start is as early as possible. The early childhood years are not only a time for taking first steps or for saying first words. They are also when, through their relationships with others, children begin building expectations about their world and the people in it. These first skills are very important as they form the foundations for a child’s ongoing development and will affect his or her mental health and wellbeing, now and into the future. And guess what? You are your child’s best teacher.
Here are some of the ways you can develop your child’s social-emotional intelligence:
1. Provide a Nurturing Environment
Providing children with love and affection conveys to them that they are important and special individuals. Holding your child provides a physical “holding environment” in which he feels safe and contained. Comforting, singing, and talking to your child also offers an important emotional holding environment. This is where his feelings are talked about and managed with the help of his trusted caregiver and promotes a feeling of safety and security within a young child. As children receive love and affection from their parents, they are also learning important aspects of how they can express their love and affection to others.
2. Name Her Emotions
To promote your baby’s self-awareness, start at birth by responding positively to her cries. This will help her feel secure and safe. In the toddler years, help her identify and label her emotions – saying something like “are you feeling sad today because your friend is not here?” promotes your child’s awareness of her own feelings. It can also be helpful to tell and show young children other ways to manage their feelings. For example, it might benefit them to pound clay when angry or draw a picture and tell a story about how they are feeling. Helping your child to find appropriate ways to express her emotions will promote self-confidence and self-control. This will also help her to better manage conflicts with peers and to have empathy for her friends and others.
3. Let Him Make Decisions
Making positive choices about personal and social behaviour will be key to your child’s success in life. Encourage a healthy sense of self-esteem by giving him responsibilities at home and allowing him to make age-appropriate choices on his own – “Do you want to wear your red pants or your blue pants?”, for example. Show him your appreciation when he helps around the house. He craves your attention. Encourage and praise him appropriately as often as you can. Let your positive comments far outweigh your negative ones. It will do wonders for his self-esteem.
4. Play Games
Play teaches your child how to engage with the world from a very early age, and it can be educational as well as fun. Promote your child’s social development by encouraging her to play games that require taking turns, sharing and cooperating. Put together a box of dress-up clothes, collect hand puppets and provide a range of props to stimulate your child’s imagination during role-play. This will boost her social and emotional development because it requires both verbal and nonverbal communication. And go out! Take your child to restaurants, museums, shops… do everyday life stuff in order to model kind and generous behaviours when interacting with other adults and children. Give your child opportunities to play with other children her age, thereby helping her to explore her world and get to know the people in it.
5. Lead by Example
Don’t forget that your child looks to you to learn how to form relationships and cope with the world around him. Take advantage of every opportunity to model appropriate behaviour. Spend time every day cuddling and talking to him. Interact with him through age-appropriate books and games. Teach him good manners by treating other people with courtesy. Socialise with friends and encourage him to foster healthy friendships too. And remember to nurture your own social and emotional wellness, too. Finding support through friends, family or professionals can provide the comfort, encouragement, and reassurance that you need so you can be more available to your child. Seeking out this support also helps to teach your child that he lives within a loving community where individuals take care of one another.
Providing positive social-emotional opportunities for children helps them feel good about themselves and develops their confidence. As a result, they are better able to find ways to cope with conflict, solve social problems and, ultimately, to form secure relationships with others throughout their lives.
Do you yearn to learn more about counselling and communication or psychology but need the flexibility to continue working or raising your kids? Why not consider studying online? SACAP has developed an extensive online learning programme that retains the college’s essence of practical, engaging and applied study while allowing you to still maintain a work-life balance. Online courses offered range from a Higher Certificate and a Diploma in Counselling and Communications Skills to a five-year part-time Bachelor of Applied Social Science Degree. For more information, click here.