Many child­care providers won­der “how can I sup­port young children’s social–emotional development?”

Child­care providers want to sup­port young chil­dren’s con­fi­dence, help them man­age and express their emo­tions, relate to oth­ers, and react appro­pri­ate­ly in social sit­u­a­tions. These rela­tion­ships and emo­tions fall with­in the domain of social–emotional development.

You have a unique oppor­tu­ni­ty to pos­i­tive­ly impact children’s lives and devel­op­ment. Par­tic­u­lar­ly, through your inter­ac­tions and cre­at­ing a sup­port­ive envi­ron­ment. In this blog, we will explore three tech­niques from our course, Social Emo­tion­al Devel­op­ment in Young Chil­drenfor sup­port­ing healthy social-emo­tion­al devel­op­ment in infants, tod­dlers, and preschoolers.

1. Practice empathetic listening 

Slow down and lis­ten to what chil­dren are try­ing to say. Watch their facial expres­sions, and ask ques­tions instead of just giv­ing answers.

2. Reflect on your own reaction

Your reac­tions to sit­u­a­tions affect the chil­dren, both neg­a­tive­ly and pos­i­tive­ly. You mod­el how to han­dle emo­tions by what you say, how you say it, your tone of voice, and your body lan­guage. Try reflect­ing with oth­er care­givers on how your respons­es have helped resolve or inten­si­fy chal­leng­ing situations.

Create a supportive community

When we respond to a child, we often for­get that the oth­er chil­dren are watch­ing. How we deal with a sit­u­a­tion deliv­ers pow­er­ful pos­i­tive or neg­a­tive mes­sages. Not just to the child or chil­dren involved but also to every­one who is a wit­ness to the interaction.

For exam­ple, instead of quick­ly rep­ri­mand­ing a child who is being dis­rup­tive dur­ing a group activ­i­ty, invite the group of chil­dren to sup­port the child who is “in trou­ble.” Ask the chil­dren if any­one has an idea how to help the child who is not feel­ing his or her best today. Some­one may offer a toy or a hug. Some­one else may vol­un­teer a sto­ry of what helped him or her feel bet­ter in a sim­i­lar situation.

Try imple­ment­ing these tech­niques into your day-today inter­ac­tions with the chil­dren. Show that you respect the chil­dren in your care by grant­i­ng them their emo­tions and feel­ings, and make sure not to ignore, reject, or belit­tle the chil­dren or their emo­tion­al responses.

Ready to learn more? Take our course, Social-Emo­tion­al Devel­op­ment in Young Chil­drento learn about young chil­dren’s social-emo­tion­al devel­op­ment and more ways in which adults can sup­port chil­dren’s development.

Ready for the next child care top­ic? Learn why time-out is an inap­pro­pri­ate dis­ci­pline tech­nique for children. 

Please let us know how we can be of addi­tion­al assis­tance! Call us: 1–800-685‑7610, Mon­day through Fri­day, 9–5 ET, or email us days, evenings and week­ends: We’re here to help!

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