Social and emotional learning is an important piece of a child’s development. Many parents think of development in terms of a child learning to talk, walk, and become more independent during daily living skills. However, a child’s development is also characterized by learning how to interact with others and appropriately identify and express emotions. Here are a few ways to add social and emotional learning into daily interactions with your child:

  1. Use vocabulary that focuses on feelings and social interactions. For young children, begin by identifying feelings in pictures in the books you read, on television programs you watch, labeling your own feelings, and labeling your child’s feelings. The younger the child the more simplistic this should be. A good starting point for feeling identification with young children is identifying happy, sad, angry, and scared. In addition, use social interaction words within play such as sharing words like “Your turn” and “Now, it is my turn.” These activities assist parents in modeling and identifying proper feeling identification and social interaction skills.
  1. Praise your child for proper use of emotion words or use of social interaction skills. Letting your child know that the behaviors you are seeing are what you would like to see will help her be more likely to use those behaviors in the future.
  1. Help your child learn ways to cope with strong emotions, especially anger. Work with your child to determine ways that help her calm down, such as taking deep breaths, taking a break in a quiet spot, or using comfort items. Coping strategies can be creative and should be tailored to your child’s needs. In addition, it is important to practice coping skills when your child is calm to help her become more proficient at using the coping skill before using it when she is upset. When your child becomes upset, remind her to use the coping skill that you have been practicing.
  1. Look for opportunities within your interactions that could be “teachable moments”. Use these opportunities to talk with your child about the choices that she made and possible solutions for better choices in the future.
  1. Look for toys or other activities to assist in teaching emotions and social development. An example is a game in which the child needs to take turns and wait for her next turn. In addition to practicing taking turns and waiting, these types of activities often provide opportunities for your child to work on feelings, such as feeling angry when she does not win the game.
  1. Remember you are the best model of appropriate emotional and social behaviors for your child. Observe your own behavior to determine if you are modeling appropriate emotional and social skills and make changes if necessary.

What are some strategies you’ve used to teach social and emotional learning at home?

Michelle Rosenwald is a Family Counselor in the Behavior Clinic at Penfield Children’s Center. She has worked in the Behavior Clinic for two years serving children under the age of five that are experiencing behavioral and emotional concerns. The Behavior Clinic aims to prepare both the parent and child for a positive family and parenting experience through the use of nurturing activities, positive play, discipline techniques, and routine.

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