How can I support young children’s social-emotional development?

Many childcare providers often wonder how they can best support how young children feel about themselves, how they understand, manage, and express their emotions, how they relate and interact with other people, and how they react to social situations. These relationships and emotions fall within the domain of social-emotional development.

As a caregiver, you have a unique opportunity to positively impact children’s lives and development, particularly through one-to-one interactions and by creating a supportive environment. In this blog, we will explore three techniques from our Care 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.
  3. 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.

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