Health Professionals

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.

Importance of Social Skills Development in Children

A child’s social development influences the way he or she communicates and interacts with others. (Source: Gresham, Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports 1986)

  • Social skills are a particular group of behaviors that an individual exhibits in order to complete a social task.
  • Social tasks are things such as entering into a peer group, having a conversation, making friends, or playing a game with peers.
  • Social competence is an evaluative term (given certain criteria) that an individual performed a social task adequately.

Social development has significant effects on psychological, academic,
and adaptive functioning. Poor social skills in children may lead to
inaccurate representation of social cues and social responses. Deficits in interpersonal skills and problem-solving skills can also lead to a higher risk of child psychopathology.

Evidence-based programs are effective at increasing performance of specific skills. Social skills training is a component of multi-modal interventions to address emotional, behavioral, and developmental disorders. (Source: Spence, S.H., Social Skills Training with Children and Young People, 2003)


Resources on Social Development of Children

  • Bright Futures: a national health promotion and disease prevention initiative that addresses children's health needs in the context of family and community.
  • Devereux Early Childhood Initiative (DECI): The mission of the Devereux Early Childhood Initiative (DECI) is to create working partnerships among early childhood educators, mental health professionals, and families to promote young children's social and emotional development, foster resilience, and build the skills for school success.

Positive Relationships Help Develop Interpersonal Skills

Health care professionals should advise parents on how positive relationships within a family affect a child’s ability to develop critical interpersonal skills.

These relationships also provide children with:
  • a critical sense of being valued
  • a vital network of social support
  • the ability to develop constructive interactions with others
    (Source: AAP, 2011)

Stages of Forming and Maintaining Positive Relationships

 
Infancy

Positive relationships build and strengthen brain development in babies, as well as nurture the bond between family members and baby.

 
Young Children

Parents and caregivers still influence positive relationship development in a young child. As communication and trust builds, so does the child’s thinking and reasoning skills.

 
School-Age Children

When school-aged children maintain positive relationships with family, self-confidence builds. Positive relationships with teachers form as well as an optimistic attitude about learning and school. They will perform better and be proud of achievements. They will also gain greater peer acceptance and friendships.

(Sources: Harvard University, 2004; Perry and Knitzer, 2007)


Training Resources

Triple P (Positive Parenting Program): Training for Individual Practitioners: The Triple P System is supported by an evidence-based training program with a multi-disciplinary focus that assists professionals’ worldwide working with families across a range of service delivery modalities.

Children's Emotional Development

As a health professional, you can counsel parents on “what’s normal” regarding a toddler’s tantrums or a teen’s outbursts and when they should seek help for their child.

Emotional competence is defined as a set of affect-oriented behavioral, cognitive and regulatory skills that emerge over time as a person develops in a social context. Emotional competence is necessary to navigate complex personal interactions, develop positive relationships, and be able to self-regulate.


Emotional Development Milestones

 
In the First Year
From birth - 4 months, a baby should:
  • cry to show discomfort or fatigue
  • smile, laugh, and “baby talk” when happy
From 5-8 months, a baby should:
  • show pleasure and displeasure
  • smile and laugh at baby games and funny faces
From 8-12 months, a baby should:
  • be able to self-soothe
  • seek approval from caregiver and respond to "no"
 
2-3 Years
From 13-18 months, a baby should:
  • enjoy being around other children
  • show displeasure by using voice and gestures
By 2-3 years, a toddler should:
  • adopt expressive behavior in imaginative play and may master fears through playing
  • experience emotions like embarrassment, empathy and guilt
 
4-7 Years
From 4-5 years, a child should:
  • be trusting, empathic, and intellectually inquisitive
  • exhibit self-confidence
From 5-7 years, a child should:
  • be able to regulate self-conscious emotions (e.g., embarrassment)
  • demonstrate independent problem-solving skills but still seek support from parents as main coping strategy
 
7-10 Years
  • be able to manage multiple emotions toward the same person
  • use multiple time frame references and unique personal information to develop close friendships
 
Pre-Teens
  • be able to make the distinction between genuine emotional expression with close friends and controlled display with others
  • be capable of generating multiple solutions and differentiated strategies for dealing with stress
 
Teenage Years
  • be able to communicate about his or her emotions with another and be mindful of how emotions affect the quality of a relationship
  • be able to integrate moral character and personal philosophy in dealing with stress and decision-making

Resources on Emotional Competence for Health Professionals

  • Delaware’s B.E.S.T. (Bringing Evidence-based System of Care and Treatment) for Young Children and Their Families — Early childhood mental health consultation aims to build the capacity and improve the ability of staff, families, programs, and systems to promote positive relationships and social emotional skills as well as to prevent, identify, treat, and reduce the impact of mental health problems among children from ages 2 - 5 and their families.
  • Primary Care Toolkit: Practical Resources for the Integrated Behavioral Care Provider: For mental health professionals working in primary care settings, this guide provides advice and information on collaboration care.
  • Triple P (Positive Parenting Program) Training for Individual Practitioners: The Triple P System is supported by an evidence-based training program with a multi-disciplinary focus that assists professionals’ worldwide working with families across a range of service delivery modalities.

Self-Control in Children

Self-control in children is fundamentally related to several other targeted health behaviors, including:

  • social skills
  • emotional competence
  • positive relationships

Problems at Birth Can Contribute to Self-Regulation Issues

Extreme individual disparities exist in self-regulatory capabilities from child to child. Children who are at risk for problems with self-regulation include those born with:

  • health problems
  • mothers who have diabetes
  • mothers who abused drugs or alcohol during pregnancy
Self-Regulation in Infancy

An infant’s surroundings and predictability of caregivers largely influences how an infant self-regulates and responds to stress during the first year. Regular feedings and a predictable sleep schedule help create an expected pattern to the infant’s day. The infant develops self-soothing behaviors and also develops skills that allow him to selectively focus on a particular action.

Self-Regulation in Early Childhood

During the early childhood years, the relative dominance of biologic rhythms is reduced through the increase of self-control. By age 2 or 3, children should begin to display behaviors linked with self-regulation, such as:

  • delaying gratification
  • displaying appropriate responses
  • remaining calm
  • focusing on a task
  • acknowledging that actions have consequences
  • following rules and norms

Health Professional Resources on Self-Control

  • Bright Futures: a national health promotion and disease prevention initiative that addresses children's health needs in the context of family and community.
  • Personal Responsibility Education Program (PREP): educates youth on healthy sexual behavior through abstinence or contraception.
  • Triple P (Positive Parenting Program): Training for Individual Practitioners: The Triple P System is supported by an evidence-based training program with a multi-disciplinary focus that assists professionals’ worldwide working with families across a range of service delivery modalities.

Health Literacy Is a Necessary Life Skill

Nemours Health & Prevention Services (NHPS) believes that health literacy
and advocacy are necessary life skills, especially for young adults. Health literacy is the ability to understand and use information to make appropriate health decisions.

Several factors must be considered when assessing the effect of health literacy on preventive care:
  • health literacy skills of patients
  • increasingly complex health information
  • subsequent barriers to access, care, and health-promoting actions

Baseline measures for youth health literacy can be obtained by using health communication strategies and health information technology to improve patient communications, healthy outcomes, health care quality, and to achieve health equity. These objectives relate to accessibility of information, increasing health literacy skills, and providing new opportunities for access of appropriate information via the Internet and mobile devices.


Health Literacy Skills of Adolescents

Take the time to communicate about health topics with adolescents. Engaging adolescents as active participants in the health care system and educating them on their health insurance fosters life-long positive health behaviors.

Facts about adolescents and their health literacy skills:
  • The internet is the most common source of health information for adolescents and young adults, and access to internet information is growing rapidly, even among individuals with limited literacy skills.
  • Adolescents do not fully comprehend their health insurance coverage and how their health is impacted by their choice of providers and treatments.
  • Adolescents do not grasp the cost of health care and health insurance.

Health Communication Resources for Health Professionals

Handouts & Resources

If you need more resources to help educate your parents and patients, go to our resources section for health professionals.
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