Social Emotional Skills for Children


Developing social and emotional skills is essential to help our children succeed both in school and in life. Developing emotional awareness helps children better understand and respond to social situations. As parents, we can help our children grow in emotional awareness skills by incorporating emotions into everyday life. We can use the colors of Zones of Regulation or a feelings wheel to complete an emotional check-in with our children after school. Discussing various types of emotions on a daily basis helps children grow in insight to understand their feelings and their responses to difficult situations.

Helping children develop insight into their emotions fosters the ability to grow in empathy. The more children understand their own emotions, the more they can recognize how their words and actions impact others. Understanding the emotions of others and how a child’s actions impact others are two foundational components of effectively interacting with others.

Daily reviewing emotions – both in how our children feel and how their actions make others feel – helps children grow in communication skills. Learning how to express feelings in words is another important tool in the social skill toolkit. Additionally, daily practicing reading expressions of others and interacting socially helps children appropriately modify their behavior to adapt to the present context. For children who are significantly struggling with social skills, consider contacting your school to identify a friendship or social skills group within the community that provides targeted intervention within this domain.

As parents, building our toolbox with the ideas above can be a great place to start to help our children grow in social skills at home. Consider building your toolbox with the steps outlined in this month’s article.

Practical Tips For Parents Developing Social-Emotional Skills

  1. Identify visuals or other resources to help your child learn more about emotions.
  2. Set aside ten minutes after school or at dinner time to review various emotions each family member experienced throughout the day.
  3. When experiencing difficult situations or sibling conflict at home, label emotions and encourage your children to try to label their emotions. If your child is significantly dysregulated, provide appropriate regulation time before discussing emotions. 
  4. Plan social interactions with other adults or children. After the social interaction, review with your child the moments they experienced different emotions and have them guess the emotions the other individual experienced as well.
  5. Incorporate social and emotional literacy into your daily life by talking about emotions characters are likely experiencing in books or movies you watch.    

Check out this article on “Teaching Social Skills at Home” from the Child Mind Institute.

“The truth is that teaching kids social skills can be challenging for parents because these are skills most people pick up on their own. We usually don’t even know how we learned them, says Stephanie Lee, PsyD, a clinical psychologist at the Child Mind Institute. “Parents with children who have social skills deficits need to remember that even if something seems obvious, it may not be obvious for their kids.””

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