Promoting Young Children’s Social-Emotional Skills
What are social-emotional skills?
Social-emotional skills are essential for connecting with others. They help in managing emotions, build and maintain healthy relationships, feel empathy for others, make responsible decisions and solve challenging situations.
When does social and emotional development begin?
We tend to assume that social emotional skills evolve naturally. In reality in most people they do. Social emotional skills develop in normal work experiences, play experiences etc. But there are those who find it difficult to manage their emotions and have a difficulty socially who have to be ‘taught’.
Babies start learning these skills from birth! As soon as they begin interacting with the people who care for them, they begin to understand and recognize thoughts and feelings. Even as a baby, the little one is picking up on how you respond to their social and emotional needs. They notice how safe they feel at home and in your presence. They learn how to feel empathy, recognize emotions and say “I’m sorry” by observing those that they come in contact with. But not all kids develop at the same pace.
Even if children are academically talented and gifted, it is their social emotional skills that can get in the way which can lead to social isolation, unhappiness, anxiety and depression.
Building Social-Emotional Skills in the Classroom:
Promoting social and emotional development for all students in classrooms involves specific activities that teach social and emotional skills, providing opportunities for students to practice and hone those skills, and giving them opportunities to apply these skills in various situations. Effectively weaving social, emotional, and academic components into the fabric of a school help students remain motivated to develop these skills, to succeed academically and to grow as responsible adults.
Educators must understand, prioritize, and have the leadership skills to nurture social and emotional learning in their schools. Schools must promote healthy relationships among all in school community members and help adults be role models for students.
Simple tips for teachers to support social-emotional learning for their students every day:
Start the day with a personal connection: it could be as simple as greeting each student warmly as they enter the classroom.
Story Time can be a time to explore social-emotional themes.
Give your students lots of opportunities to work with partners. Working with a partner helps them learn to cooperate and collaborate.
Teach them how to work in groups. Students will learn how to negotiate with others, develop leadership skills and figure out their own strengths so they can best contribute to the group
Nurture a culture of kindness: Teach your children to write messages of kindness, appreciation and love on cards and have them share it with their class mates.
Set up a Peace Place: Create a special place in your classroom for students to take a break when they are upset or angry or need to calm themselves. This space can have a peaceful atmosphere and might include comfortable pillows, calming images and/or books about peace etc.
Conduct lots of role-play activities: Sometimes you have to put yourself in someone else’s shoes to truly understand a situation. Taking time to role-play tricky or troubling situations that show up in your classroom help kids develop empathy and understand other people’s feelings.
Teach them to monitor their own progress: Make personal goal-setting (academic, emotional, social, etc.) a regular activity with your students. It will strengthen their intrapersonal and interpersonal relationships.
Help them monitor their progress.
How long does it take to develop social-emotional skills?
Social-emotional growth takes time and even continues throughout adulthood. Early experiences with family, caregivers, and peers greatly impact social and emotional development, but throughout our lives we will continue to be shaped by our experiences!