Emotional wellness, social skills, and life skills are important tools for children to develop. Learning what a positive relationship is — including supportive and nurturing interactions with parents, caregivers, teachers, and peers — starts at infancy. How to integrate feelings and deal with difficult situations will form an essential part of your child’s overall emotional development. Self-control is another vital skill for your child to learn, in order to appropriately express, communicate, and manage emotions and behaviors.
Developing Social Skills in Kids
In order to relate to others, your child needs to learn social skills and competencies such as friendliness, how to act during group activities, respect for property, and obedience of rules.
The top 10 social skills for your child to learn are:
- listen to others
- follow the steps
- follow the rules
- ignore distractions
- ask for help
- take turns when you talk
- get along with others
- stay calm with others
- be responsible for your behavior
- do nice things for others
(Source: Lewis/Newcomber - Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports)
Be a Good Example
Your behaviors and actions can go a long way to instill these skills in
Social Skills Application
|Spending quality time with your children; giving your attention||Opportunities for practicing conversation skills|
|Talking to your children||Promote vocabulary, conversation skills,
|Showing affection to
|Opportunities to become comfortable with affection|
|Using descriptive praise||Encouraging appropriate social behaviors, compliance|
|Providing engaging activities||Encouraging independent play, promoting appropriate behavior when in the community, appropriate social behaviors|
|Setting a good example||Showing children appropriate behaviors|
|Using incidental teaching||Promoting language, problem solving, independence|
|Using ask, say, do||Teaching self care, new skills|
|Using Behavior Charts||Encouraging appropriate behaviors, absence of problem behaviors, positive social behaviors|
Social Skills Development Resources
Find materials and helpful websites to help you build social skills in your child's everyday behavior
- Bright Futures: materials for families on mental, physical, and emotional health issues
- Center on the Social and Emotional Foundations for Early Learning: resources for families to improve social skills and emotional development in young children
- Child Guidance Resource Centers (CGRC): quality care and educational services for children, adolescents, and families with mental health, developmental disabilities, and residency needs in DE, PA, and MD
- Devereux Early Childhood Initiative (DECI): partnerships to promote young children's social skills and emotional development, foster resilience, and build skills for school success
Building Positive Relationships
It’s vitally important for your child to develop positive relationships at an early age.
- good collaboration: how your child works with others toward a
- cooperation: how your child gets along with others
- healthy attachment: helps your child develop trust and self-worth
- impulse control: helps your child develop self-control in relation to others
- negotiation: your child learns empathy for the positions of others and how to compromise
- respect: for self and others
Reinforcing all of this in your own family — early — can provide your child with a critical sense of being valued. It’s also vital preparation for your child’s interactions with others.
Stages of Building Positive Relationships
Even though babies can’t talk, there are interactions between you
and your baby which foster bonding. For instance, when your baby reaches out for stimulation and you respond, you are creating a
Parents and caregivers continue to help build positive relationships as children grow. Then, as young children begin pre-school and make friends, they have an opportunity to connect with peers. Kids at this age learn a great deal from each other by engaging in shared interactions, such as taking turns, as well as giving and receiving. They are learning to take the needs and desires of one another into account, an important aspect of forming positive relationships as they get older.
School-aged children are more self-assured and have constructive interactions with teachers and other adults outside the immediate family. They are also building positive relationships with peers.
Resources on Building Positive Relationships
Reaching Emotional Development Milestones
From crying as an infant to becoming a confident kid, your child will reach many emotional development milestones in just five years.
The emotional competence of children and adolescents — how they experience feelings and deal with difficult situations — is an essential part of their overall health. The coordination of loving caregivers, valuable educators, and supportive health care providers can help influence a child’s emotional development.
Positive emotional development is linked with:
- school readiness and academic success
- positive peer relations
- social competence
- behavioral control
Each child reaches emotional development milestones at his or her own pace. However, being aware of the stages of emotional development can allow you take action if there are any concerns you might have about your child.
Stages of Emotional Development
From birth to 4 months, your child:
- cries to show discomfort or fatigue
- smiles, laughs, and “baby talks” when happy
From 5 - 8 months, your child:
- shows anger
- smiles and laughs at baby games and funny faces
From 8 - 12 months, your child:
- seeks approval and responds to "no"
- smiles easily; shows moods by facial expressions
From 13 - 18 months, your child:
- enjoys being around other children
- protests or shows anger by using voice and gestures
By 2 years, your child:
- can become frustrated and resort to crying or tantrums
- wants to assert own independent style and takes pride in accomplishments
From 2 - 3 years, your child:
- experiences emotions like embarrassment, empathy, and guilt
- can be assertive, refuses assistance, and insists on doing things on own
From 4 - 5 years, your child:
- gains confidence
- is trusting, empathic, and intellectually inquisitive
From 5 - 7 years, your child:
- demonstrates independent problem-solving skills but will still seek support from you as a coping strategy
- has an early understanding of agreed-upon emotion "scripts;" might adopt a “cool emotional front” with peers
From 7 - 10 years, your child:
- understands norms for expressive manners, whether genuine
- uses multiple time frame references and unique personal information to develop close friendships
From 10 - 13 years, your child:
- has an awareness of emotion “scripts” in combination with social roles
- is capable of generating multiple solutions and differentiated strategies for dealing with stress
In adolescence, your child:
- adopts strategies for impression management (attempts to influence the perceptions of other people about a person, object, or event)
- can integrate moral character and personal philosophy in dealing with stress and decision-making
Resources for Parents
- Nemours KidsHealth: Emotions and Behavior: help your child cope with life's ups and downs, from divorce to depression
- Nemours’ Parenting Tips: strategies for common parenting concerns
Learning Self Control
Self-control or self-regulation in children is an important skill in which they
learn to appropriately express themselves and communicate, while appropriately managing their emotions and behaviors. Good self-control will also allow your child to react to situations in a positive fashion and generate constructive results.
Developing and maintaining self-control starts with families and caregivers helping modify children’s emotions and needs. The process can take years, as your child learns to internalize the ability for self-control, and will grow along with your child’s coping skills and maturity level.
From Nemours Health & Prevention Services (NHPS)
We can help you teach your child self-control. Children who possess self-control are more likely to thrive because of their abilities to:
- focus on the situation at hand and maintain awareness
- think and reason
- control physical behavior in structured environments
- display signs of emotional self-discipline that is needed in
By age 2 or 3, your child should begin to display behaviors linked with emotional self-regulation, such as being able to:
- delay gratification
- display appropriate responses
- remain quiet when needed
- focus on a task
- acknowledge that actions have consequences
- comply with rules and follow norms
When children do not develop emotional self-control, they have trouble learning new things, sustaining friendships, and controlling their actions. They may be more reactive, immature, easily influenced, and hostile than their peers.
The ability for self-control may also help regulate your child in regards to screen time and establishing life-long healthy eating and sleep habits.
Resources to Help With Self-Control & Emotional Regulation
- Nemours’ Parenting Tips: strategies for common parenting concerns
- Bright Futures: addresses children's health needs in the context of family and community
- Just in Time Parenting eNewsletters
- Triple P (Positive Parenting Program): simple routines and small changes that can make a big difference to your family
Why Health Literacy & Advocacy Is Important
Health literacy and advocacy are necessary life skills, especially as your child grows and becomes a young adult. Health literacy is the ability to understand and use information to make appropriate health decisions.
You can help your children develop vital health literacy skills, by teaching them how to find and understand their own health information.
As your children grow into adolescence, you can give them some responsibility for their own health care, such as making doctor’s appointments and
It's also wise to talk about health insurance and medical records to older teens. Although young adults can stay on their parents' plan until age 26 under the health care reform bill, many will be on their own well before that — and eventually will have to know how to navigate insurance and keep track
Health Literacy and Advocacy Resources
- Helping Teens Take Charge of Their Health Care and other helpful articles on teaching youth life skills are available on KidsHealth from Nemours.
- Health Communication, Health Literacy, and e-Health: resources from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to help patients obtain, process, and understand basic health information and services.
Handouts & Resources
If you're looking for more tools and resources to help you encourage healthy habits at home with your kids, check out our handouts and resources section just for families.
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