social emotional development: a complete guide

What is Social and Emotional Development? [A Complete Guide]

Social and emotional development starts early. Young children develop their emotional skills in their first five years as they form relationships with family.

Emotional-social development in early childhood helps a child form the skills they need to express and identify emotions. Parents often play the most crucial role in their child’s development by interacting and responding to their needs.

In their first 12 months, children develop a personality and learn to express their feelings. By 18 months, they begin to copy the social behaviors of people around them and become more curious about their environment. As they get older, children learn skills like sharing, listening, and conflict resolution.

Social and emotional development takes place over a person’s entire life. However, the most critical development occurs in their first five years as they learn the basics of interacting with family members and outsiders.

Why is Social/Emotional Development Important?

Social and emotional development affects every area of a child’s life. By learning emotional skills from family members, children learn to:

  • Recognize facial expressions
  • Practice emotion regulation
  • Facilitate positive social interactions

According to Psychology Today, building socio-emotional skills can help a child create success both educationally and in their future careers. They build problem-solving skills, learn empathy, and become more thoughtful about how they respond to challenging situations.

Socio/emotional development paves the way for children to respond to different instances as they move through life. For example, positive social/emotional development encourages a child to persevere and keep working to find a solution while maintaining boundaries.

Without this foundation, the child may give up easily or turn to negative emotional expressions like violent behavior when they become frustrated.

What are the Benefits of Healthy Social-Emotional Development?

Positive social and emotional development benefits the child, as well as their parents, teachers, and community. By encouraging young children to develop excellent emotional skills, you help them foster better relationships as they get older.

Research shows that positive social-emotional development also improves mental health, reduces violence and bullying in schools, and helps children succeed beyond the classroom. Young people start to understand how to manage their emotions and communicate with those around them to resolve problems, creating a better understanding of any given situation.

According to Minneapolis Public Schools, teachers lose eight minutes per class to disciplinary action. Positive social/emotional development reduces the need for disciplinary measures in schools as the child learns to express themselves and collaborate with teachers and peers. These beneficial effects will carry into the workplace and personal relationships later in life.

When you implement positive social and emotional development, you create overall positive child development. It prepares students for better relationships and helps them achieve higher grades in school.

3 Examples of Social-Emotional Development

Children develop social-emotional skills over time, starting with their earliest relationships. As they get older, they learn to recognize how to respond to different situations, whether they are working in a busy city like New York or traveling overseas. Let’s look at these three examples below.

1st Example

A child sees a student in their class crying and sitting alone while everyone else plays. The child faces two options: keep playing and ignore their upset classmate or approach them and ask what’s wrong.

By choosing the second option and approaching the crying classmate, the child displays positive social and emotional skills. They recognize that the expression of crying means the student is sad, and they respond by asking why and how they can help.

2nd Example

A student has trouble focusing on their tasks during class and struggles to complete homework assignments. They often submit assignments late or unfinished.

The student approaches their teacher to talk about these problems. By working together with their teacher and parents, the student identifies their goals (completing assignments on time) and develops a plan to meet them.

That plan might include setting aside a specific amount of time to work on a subject at home or implementing a reward system for when the student completes their assignments.

3rd Example

A student often lashes out at other children when they become upset, turning to physical violence. Their behavior has become disruptive, and they have repeatedly been disciplined for their actions.

Social-emotional development teaches this student to identify their emotions first. By understanding their feelings, this student learns to express how they feel through words, explaining why another person’s actions upset them. They also learn self-regulation so they can independently manage their reactions without violence.

Kids Are Struggling? Positive Action can help!

Positive Action’s SEL programs can help a child improve their emotional development and overall well-being. However, fostering positive social and emotional development does not only impact children—it can help adults, too.

Further reading: What does SEL stand for in education?

Teachers notice improved relationships between students and their peers, as well as with other adults in their lives. Better social-emotional skills often lead to better grades, attendance, and problem-solving skills. Teachers even see a reduction in disciplinary action and disruption in class after addressing these issues.

Positive Action’s Family Kit has helped parents improve their child’s social-emotional growth, too. Parents see their child improve their relationships within and outside of the family unit, and children begin to communicate more effectively.

To experience how Positive Action can help your child’s social and emotional development, contact us today by phone, chat, or email to schedule a webinar.

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