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.

Social Skills

Developing Social Skills in Your Students

Poor social skills in children predict academic failure. You have the unique role of helping shape the social development of your students.

Three Ways to Improve the Social Development of Your Students
  1. Teach Social Skills and Problem Solving: It is most effective when there is specific time set aside to work on social skills activities for kids. Check out MOVE 627 for social development activities to use in
    the classroom.
  2. Family Education Programs: Work with families on positive parenting strategies that will build children’s social competence; choose social skills activities that parents can work on with their kids at home.
  3. Teacher Training: Teacher training and hands-on activities about social development result in more positive interactions with students.

After-School Programs Contribute to Positive Social Development

Youth who participate in after-school programs improve significantly in four major areas:
  • feelings and attitudes
  • behavior
  • school performance
  • little to no drug use

Effective after-school programs are “SAFE:” Sequenced, Active, Focused, and Explicit (clear, precise objectives). In order to be successful, time needs to be allocated specifically for social development activities.

Resources on Social Development of Children

Find some articles and helpful websites to help kids develop socially in school.

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Delaware Institute for Excellence in Early Childhood (DIEEC) supports the healthy growth and development of children by providing resources and information for those who care for, who care about and who teach children and support their families.

Devereux Early Childhood Initiative (DECI) creates working partnerships among early childhood educators, mental health professionals and families to promote young children's social and emotional development, foster resilience and build skills for school success.

Center on the Social and Emotional Foundations for Early Learning: designed to strengthen the capacity of Head Start and child care programs to improve the social and emotional outcomes of young children.

The Equip Program: teaches youth to think and act responsibly through a peer-helping approach.

4-H Youth Development Programs: support the physical, mental and emotional health of children and adolescents, and help them lead productive lives into adulthood. Programs address such critical issues as childhood obesity, substance abuse and physical safety.

The PREPARE Curriculum: a series of 10 course-length interventions grouped into three areas: reducing aggression, reducing stress and reducing prejudice. It is designed for use with middle school and high school students and can also be adapted for use with younger students.

“Stop and Think” Social Skills Program: focused on teaching students interpersonal, problem-solving and conflict-resolution skills. The four levels ensure that all skills are taught in a developmentally-sensitive and appropriate way.

Teens Against Tobacco Use (TATU): a peer teaching tobacco prevention program sponsored by the American Lung Association.

The Adolescent Curriculum for Communication and Effective Social Skills (ACCESS) from the Walker Social Skills Curriculum: a complete program for teaching effective social skills to students at middle and high school levels.


Building Positive Relationships

Educators can model, influence, and develop positive relationships with families, students, and peers.

Positive relationships tend to have the following qualities in common:
  • being self-confident
  • collaborating
  • controlling impulses
  • cooperating
  • forming a healthy attachment
  • getting along
  • negotiating differences of opinion
  • problem-solving together
  • respecting each other’s feelings
  • valuing and praising each other
    (Source: U.S. National Research Council, 2000)
Building positive relationships also help grow essential abilities in:
  • self-regulation
  • social skills
  • emotional skills

Positive Relationships in the Classroom

Find some articles and studies on building positive relationships
among students.

See Related Reading on Positive Relationships

Teacher-Student Relationships and Engagement: Conceptualizing, Measuring and Improving the Capacity of Classroom Interactions (2012)
Classrooms are complex social systems, and student-teacher relationships and interactions are also complex. The nature and quality of interactions between teachers and students are fundamental to student engagement. The quality of these interactions can be improved by providing teachers knowledge about children’s developmental processes and personalized feedback about their own interactive behaviors and cues.

The Relationship Factor: Making or Breaking Successful Transitions for Youth at Risk (2011)
Research shows that effective teachers are able to build relationships with students and implement well-developed classroom procedures. Yet most schools give little support to teachers on how to connect with students at risk. Positive relationships have particular impact on the academic success of students of low socioeconomic status and those with Hispanic and African American backgrounds.

Fostering Supportive Teacher-Child Relationships: Intervention Implementation in a State-Funded Preschool Program (2011) “Banking Time” is a set of techniques designed to promote positive, supportive relationships through 1-on-1 teacher-student interactions in order to convey sensitivity, encouragement and support. Teachers were more likely to choose to implement Banking Time with children who had lower social-emotional skills and formed a closer relationship with those children who participated.

Child temperament, Teacher-Child Interactions and Teacher-Child Relationships: A longitudinal investigation from first to third grade (2009)
The quality of children's relationships with teachers in early elementary grades has implications for their academic and behavioral outcomes in later grades. Among the findings revealed: Teachers’ perceptions of relationship quality and the number of teacher-initiated interactions in first grade predicted teachers’ perceptions of relationship quality and the number of teacher-initiated interactions in third grade.


Helping Students Communicate Their Feelings

Help your students be happier, better adjusted, and achieve more — reinforce their communications of feelings in positive ways, and when they show empathy for others.

They should also demonstrate:
  1. awareness of one’s own emotions
  2. understanding others’ emotions
  3. use of appropriate vocabulary for expressing emotions
  4. an understanding that internal emotional state and external emotion expression do not always match
  5. the ability to cope with distressing emotions
  6. awareness of emotional closeness in different relationships
  7. capacity for emotional self-worth

Resources for Educators

From Nemours'

Reinforcing Students' Self-Regulation Skills

Help reinforce your students’ abilities in the area of self-control and you’ll
help boost their performance in the classroom and in their interactions with
each other.

Self-regulation in children is necessary in order to properly experience, convey, and manage emotions and behaviors. It also aids in the ability to respond to people and situations constructively, generating a healthy outcome.

Self-regulation in children helps with:
  • concentration
  • controlling impulsive actions
  • delaying gratification

5 Self-Regulation Strategies for Children

  1. Be a role model. Practice self-control in your words and actions if you get aggravated with a classroom situation.
  2. Be structured and predictable. Remind students of transitions and any changes in the schedule. Children with self-regulation issues feel "unstructured" already. If things are unpredictable, they may not be able to control their actions.
  3. Reward children who demonstrate good self-regulation with choices that offer opportunities for autonomy and creative play.
  4. Address any improper language and/or behavior right away. Children who act out spontaneously or with hostility can generate disorder in the classroom and hinder learning. Immediately responding will allow for a safer and more conducive learning environment.
  5. Seek help. Don't be afraid to point out a child's self-regulation issues with parents or other school administrators. Early recognition and involvement can help the child correct behaviors sooner and be more productive in later school years.

Learn Self-Regulation Strategies and Activities for Kids

Find resources on how to teach self-control to children.
Health Literacy

Health Literacy Can Prevent Risky Behaviors

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.

Health Literacy and Life Skills Activity

  • Have your students define what health literacy means to them.
  • Discuss how your students learn about medical information. Up to 75% of teens who access the internet use it to look for health-related information.
  • How reliable is this information? How trustworthy is their source?
  • Do they verify the credibility of online health information?
  • Is health information on the internet always accurate?
  • How could it potentially be harmful? What are the risks of misunderstanding health information?

Teaching life skills, including health literacy, can enhance students’ wellness as well as goal-setting and decision-making skills.

Educator Resources on Health Literacy & Life Skills

From Nemours'
More Resources
  • The National Health Education Standards (NHES) were developed to establish, promote and support health-enhancing behaviors for students in all grade levels from prekindergarten through grade 12. The NHES provides a framework for teachers and administrators in designing or selecting curricula, allocating instructional resources and assessing student achievement and progress.

Handouts & Resources

Searching for more ideas and handouts for students or kids in your care? Browse our comprehensive list of tools and resources for educators.
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