Social Emotional Development in Children

Lisa Murphy, M.Ed., Early Childhood Specialist, Founder and CEO of Ooey Gooey, Inc. asks in her book – The Foundations of Children’s Learning “How do I get my shovel back?”. This is the fundamental question when trying to help kids develop social emotional skills.

If a child struggles to get along with peers from an early age, it is quite certain that without intervention, they will struggle as they grow older too. The effects on social emotional incompetency can be seen in the academic sphere of grade scholar’s, and can lead to numerous difficulties in adult life.

Not being able to control your anger, understand your anxieties, and communicate effectively your needs, thoughts and feelings is definitely problematic and unfortunately we live in a society that often enough doesn’t support to our children. I’ve heard it all being said “He needs to be toughened up”, “A good hiding is all he needs”, and “Boys don’t cry” “If he hits you just hit him back” etc..

The skills we require to get this right are not expensive to attain. They simply cost us our time. Here are a few short tips – you can try to follow when things get tough:

Acknowledge feelings – when your little one is huffing and puffing, notice their body language and point it out. I can see your face is red, you are angry. I also feel like that when I am angry. What is the matter? What happened?

Listen to your children when they wine, complain or are upset. Repeat your child’s problem to them so they know and understand you are listening and understand them.

Make eye contact when you are talking to each other when you are speaking, make sure your little one is standing or sitting up straight, and give them your full attention.

Model behaviour that is appropriate in response to a problematic situation. Give them an example that they can understand and play out. Pretend you are the friend your child has the problem with and give them a sentence word for word to repeat when they see that friend again.

As an example some of our children will complain to us, that a boy called me a baby. Your response hould be “Megan, do you wear a nappy? Do you have a baby bottle? Well then, if babies have nappies and bottles, and you don’t, then how can you be a baby Megan? Comfort your child, sooth your child and then tell them to repeat this line to the boy “My name is Megan, I am 4 years old, and I am not a baby”. This will for most children be enough to allow them to shrug off the insult and play somewhere else, but inevitably you will have to control the environment as well.

Understand the neuro connections that take place when a child is angry. Read up on the fight and flight effects on the brain when a child is angry and the calm down process needed before the rational thinking comes into effect again.

Breathing is something that children all need to learn how to do. Deep breaths in and out help regulate the emotion regardless of which particular emotion is at play. Help them blow the biggest imaginary bubble you can! Always take deep breaths with your child to help control that emotion.

Lastly, remember to love yourself enough to take time to unwind and relax – Happy mom and dad make happy children.