In recent years, we have discovered the importance that social and emotional skills have in a child’s overall development. Encouraging these skills is as important as helping them develop their motor functions. Although many of the social and emotional skills your child has will grow naturally over time, there are things you can do to help promote and encourage these positive behaviors.
What Are Social and Emotional Skills?Social and emotional skills are abilities we learn to achieve our fullest potential, whether in our personal lives, at school or later on in our chosen careers. These important skills help us:
- Manage our emotions
- Set and reach positive goals
- Empathize with others
- Establish and maintain relationships
- Make responsible decisions
Social-Emotional Development From Birth to 12 MonthsThis first year is a crucial time in your child’s life. They begin to learn who they are. The main way they understand this is by how they’re treated. During this age, it’s vital that our children begin to develop a strong sense of confidence, and it’s the parents’ job to promote this by providing encouragement, safety and comfort. This positive connection we establish with our babies is also how they begin to develop trust and empathy, the foundation of healthy relationships. A few things parents can do to help their children develop these skills are:
- Figure out what your baby’s behavior means and how you can support them.
- Encourage and delight in your baby’s discoveries.
- Provide affection and nurture even if your baby is fussy or difficult.
- Provide safety and security through a routine.
- Be a home base as your child tests boundaries and explores.
Social-Emotional Development From 12 to 24 MonthsAfter your baby turns one year, they begin to understand that they are an individual separate and distinct from other people, even their parents. They also start to realize that others have thoughts and feelings different from themselves. Although they are still too young to truly interact with other children, they are more interested in their peers and may play near or next to them. Some things parents can do to encourage social and emotional skills at this age include:
- Help your child become a problem-solver by allowing them time to figure something out but helping them if they become frustrated.
- This age still struggles with sharing and rule-following, so help them learn how to resolve conflicts healthily.
- Play games that encourage turn-taking.
- Practice distraction and redirection to help correct issues.
Social-Emotional Development From 24 to 36 MonthsOnce your child turns two years old, this is when they will actively begin playing with other kids. You’ll see their social skills grow exponentially as they play and interact with friends. You’ll also see their language and thinking skills develop. Additionally, this is the age where you will begin to notice empathy and compassion in their behavior. However, they will still need help in resolving conflicts with their peers. A few things for parents to consider to encourage their child’s development at this age include:
- Help your child understand complex feelings they may be experiencing. Make sure they know how to talk about them.
- Observe your child’s behavior. If they’re acting out, it may indicate that they’re struggling with expressing their feelings.
- Encourage early friendships.
- Help them understand empathy by imagining how their behavior may affect someone else.
- Let your child take the lead on what they’d like to play.
- Continue to encourage and assist your child with new skills.