Developing Social-Emotional Skills Through Relationship Building
In last month’s blog post, we shared ideas on how to develop social-emotional skills in babies, toddlers, and preschoolers and the importance of those skills for school readiness. To extend the conversation about social-emotional skills in young children, this month we focus on the most important thing in your child’s life: relationships. How do we love our kids well at their specific age and stage? How can we ensure that they develop healthy relationships as they grow? We suggest starting by “caring for the caregiver” and moving outwards from there in order to support social-emotional skills such as understanding and managing emotions and feeling and showing empathy for others – both of which go hand in hand when developing and maintaining positive relationships.
Your relationship with yourself
Just like when flight attendants tell you to put your own oxygen mask on first in case of an emergency, the same is the case in parenting and caregiving. Making your own mental and physical health a priority not only makes caring for your family easier, but also sets an amazing example for the little ones you love. Modeling positive self-talk, taking time to rest when you need it, staying active regularly, and eating healthy food models good habits for your children and also keeps you physically and mentally well. That’s a win-win! If you are a partner or family member of a primary caregiver of young children, encourage him or her to take care of themselves in this way and offer to care for the children so they can care for themselves. This type of supportive relationship is the next way you can love your kids well!
Your relationship with others
We’ve all heard “monkey see, monkey do” and it sure does ring true for our kids! In order to help children develop healthy relationships, we can model respectful interactions in our own relationships – with our partner, children, other family members, friends, and out in the community. It’s not easy to do when emotions are running high, but responding respectfully with gentle words and a listening ear shows our kids how to solve problems in a positive way. In time, these are behaviors that your child will begin to display in their own interactions and you will love watching them unfold!
Your relationship with your child
Supporting your child’s emotional development involves being present with them as they navigate their day, whether you are a teacher of that child or whether you are at home as the parent or caregiver. From birth, involving your child in your regular routine and having back and forth conversations (check out this great video on the “Serve and Return” strategy!) helps to build strong attachment, language, and social-emotional skills.
When your child inevitably experiences big feelings, “Sharing your Calm” is a helpful catchphrase to remember when helping kids navigate their emotions. As the adult, offering a predictable, calm, and respectful response helps the child problem solve in that moment and teaches self-regulation strategies that they will be able to pull from as they grow. Being a confident leader in this way strengthens the parent-child relationship and helps to build important connections in their developing brain that will serve them in navigating relationships over their lifetime.
Celebrating small wins in this area with those who are walking alongside you in your parenting journey can be so encouraging. Reach out to friends who are also parenting littles or join us at any of our locations to chat with other parents of young children and our Plant the Seed of Learning team. Hope to see you soon!