If there’s one thing I learned from teaching elementary school, it’s this: kids have a lot of emotions.
My students felt everything. Their emotions ran the gamut from joy to anger and everywhere in between. It was fun to watch them experience happy emotions, like the sense of accomplishment that came with learning how to read or the joy they gained from being creative. Other emotions, however, were more difficult for them to handle. Hard feelings like frustration and sadness were no strangers to our classroom.
Like all kids, my students had to develop a strong foundation of social-emotional skills to help regulate their difficult emotions.
But what are social-emotional skills and what kind of abilities would be on a social-emotional skills list? Don’t stop reading, because we’re about to find out.
What Are Social-Emotional Skills?
A child’s social-emotional skills are the abilities they use to regulate their emotions, feel empathy for others, and build loving and lasting relationships. Basically, they’re the skills that help kids manage the social and emotional parts of their lives (bet you didn’t see that one coming).
Children begin developing social-emotional skills at a very young age. Let’s take a look at babies, for example. When a baby cries, they’re seeking social interaction in the form of parental attention. When the parent responds correctly, the child (hopefully) calms down. In a roundabout way, crying helped the baby calm down and regulate their emotions (albeit with a parent’s help). This is an elementary form of social-emotional skills.
Social-emotional skill development never stops. As kids learn and grow, they’ll experience new things and forge new connections, requiring them to continually develop new and important social-emotional skills. This lifelong crash-course in social-emotional skills continues even into adulthood. I don’t know about you, but it feels like I’m learning a new lesson every single day!
Social-Emotional Skills List
Social-emotional skills are beneficial in every single aspect of a child’s life. They help kids build friendships, resolve conflict, manage their own stress and anxiety, learn social norms, make positive decisions, and gain a sense of empathy for other people.
A child with a strong sense of social-emotional skills
- Listens to their body
- Listens to their emotions
- Expresses their feelings in a healthy manner
- Apologizes for misdeeds
- Follows instructions
- Accepts criticism
- Listens to others
- Responds to others
- Respects the word “no”
- Asks questions
- Is open to negotiation
- Is flexible about changing plans
- Doesn’t speak over others
- Is polite to others
- Is open to playing with peers
- Accepts the consequences of their actions
- Waits their turn
- Practices conflict resolution
- Makes new friends
- Responds gently to others’ anger
- Takes responsibility for their actions
- Identifies emotions in others
- Demonstrates empathy in their interactions
- Controls their impulses
- Monitors their screen time
This last one is especially tough, because screens have a way of sucking up so much of a child’s time. That’s where Troomi comes in!
Smartphones from Troomi Wireless teach kids to develop a healthy relationship with technology. These awesome phones feature an adjustable scheduling system which lets parents and kids decide how long they can stare at the screen, leaving more time for creative projects and social-emotional skill development. Click here to learn more!
How Can I Help My Child Develop Social-Emotional Skills?
Need some help encouraging your child’s social-emotional skills? Here are some tips!
- Be a positive role model. Many kids learn by example. When they see a parent or teacher acting a certain way, they’ll see this as a sign of acceptable behavior and start to do it themselves. Exhibiting empathy and respectful behavior will encourage your kids to practice these positive social-emotional skills.
- Respond to your children’s emotions. Kids often have big feelings. It can be difficult, but responding to these emotions in a respectful and positive way shows your child how they can respond to other difficult emotions. It all comes back to the golden rule: treat others how you want to be treated.
- Ask questions. Asking your child questions prompts them to start thinking about things in a different way, inspiring them to explore their social-emotional skills. Ask them how they’re feeling, how their day went, and about their interactions with friends. This is a great way to bond with your kids and encourage them to practice social-emotional skills at the same time!
- Answer questions. Often, parents aren’t the ones asking questions—the kids are. When your child poses a question, answer it! Some questions might sound silly, but taking the time to answer shows kids that you’re listening and care about what they have to say. This also encourages them to explore their curiosity—an important social-emotional skill.
- Roleplay diverse situations. Some kids freeze up when they’re faced with new situations that require social-emotional skills. If this sounds familiar, try roleplaying. Presenting potentially anxiety-inducing situations at home with a trusted parent can put a child at ease. This lets them explore their social-emotional skills comfortably and carefully. It’s true what they say: practice makes perfect.
- Prompt your kids. Just like roleplaying, reminding your kids how to act sets them up for success. Before they enter a situation, give them a gentle reminder about the proper social-emotional behavior so they can prepare. When kids know what to do ahead of time, they’ll be better able to handle their emotions and develop deeper relationships.
What If My Child Has Difficulty Developing Social-Emotional Skills?
Every child moves at their own pace. While some begin developing their social-emotional skills early, others naturally take the slow path. Be patient with your kiddos: moving slowly isn’t necessarily something to worry about. Help them develop their skills, answer any questions, and be the positive role model you are.
Other kids, like those that live with ADHD and autism, may need some extra help developing social-emotional skills. Never fear: there are a ton of amazing specialists that can help. Tutors, therapists, and child psychologists all have specialized tools that can help your child on their journey to develop stronger social-emotional skills.
A Supportive Parent is a Superb Parent
For most of us, developing the abilities on the social-emotional skills list is a lifelong pursuit. Be open to helping your kiddo as they learn, and hold their hand as they do it. There’s nothing more important than being a supportive and loving guide as your child experiences this wild journey called life.