This article appeared in the July 16, 2016 edition of the Register-Guard.
Just like teaching children their letters and numbers, children can be taught to play with friends, express emotions in safe ways, understand emotions in others and solve problems. These types of skills are part of a child’s “social-emotional development.”
As professionals working with families of young children, we know that a child’s social-emotional development requires the same ingredients that go into teaching other skills.
Parents need to know what to teach, as well as the resources, strategies and activities that will provide their child with opportunities to practice these skills. When children are learning and practicing skills that foster their social development at home, it benefits them when they are in their child care, preschool or other community settings.
Fortunately, there are many simple things that parents can do at home to foster a child’s social-emotional development.
At Early Childhood CARES, which provides early intervention and early childhood special education to infants, toddlers and preschool-age children in Lane County, our focus with families is on three primary areas. It begins with building caring and responsive relationships with their child, creating predictable home routines with clear expectations, and teaching social-emotional skills. In this column, we discuss ways to enhance your relationship with your child.
Building caring and responsive relationships
Each child’s temperament is unique to them — and for some children, their personality can make it easier or harder to develop positive, warm and responsive relationships. These types of temperaments can be boosted with some simple approaches.
The key here is for parents to add activities to their day to enhance and build more positive and engaging interactions with their child:
- Blow bubbles.
- Play hide-and-seek.
- Sing and dance to your favorite music.
- Read relationship-building books such as “I’ll Love you Forever,” “The Kissing Hand,” “Baby Cakes,” “Guess How Much I Love You,” “You’re My Little Love Bug” and “Llama, Llama Misses Mama.”
Reading books to your child with words that express love, joy and happiness, as well as offer strategies for emotional times, can be a powerful tool for building a positive connection.
Young children enjoy hearing the same book read multiple times to them, so read these books often and repeat your child’s favorite lines in them throughout the day, such as: “I love you all the way to the moon and back.”
Connecting with children by participating in positive, loving activities like these also will lay the foundation for getting more cooperation from your child. A typical day with young children has its ups, downs and all-arounds. Parents need children to follow directions, transition from one activity to another, and learn how to participate in routines such as dressing, toileting, eating, bathing, etc. Aim for a 5-to-1 ratio of positive interactions with your child. This will lead to more cooperation during these times.
Children who feel secure in their relationship with their parents and primary caregivers will have a foundation that supports them in developing positive relationships with their peers and others, including siblings, grandparents and teachers.
Two-part series: This column is the first in a two-part series on social-emotional development. Keep an eye out for Parenting Now’s August column, which will address teaching social-emotional skills through daily routines.
Natalya McComas, MS, is a behavior consultant and Jeanie Smith, Ph.D, is a school psychologist at Early Childhood CARES.