Chapter 3, Social-Emotional Development

Social-Emotional Development is the foundation for behavior, academics and mental health. Children who learn healthy social-emotional skills in preschool will do better in kindergarten. In elementary school they will do better academically and have more friends.

6 month old smilingEarly problem behaviors such as aggression, anxiety, noncompliance, lack of friends and tantrums indicate a lack of social-emotional skills. Children who do not learn social-emotional skills in preschool are more likely to have bigger problems later such as school failure, delinquency or substance abuse.

The preschool period is a critical time for children to learn to control their thoughts, feelings, attention, impulses and behavior: that is, to learn social-emotional skills. Humans are not born with these skills. Humans are born with the capacity to learn. Teachers and caregivers must teach social-emotional skills just as they teach washing hands or learning colors and shapes.

A child’s ability to successfully develop social-emotional skills is highly dependent on warm, nurturing, responsive caregivers. Providers can share information on the importance of social-emotional skills with parents, teach specific skills to children and patiently support children while they learn these skills through daily practice.

Emotional development is the process of learning to recognize and express one’s own emotions, regulate or manage emotions and understand the emotions of others.

Social development is the process of developing skills to form positive relationships with adults and peers, play with others and handle challenging situations.

Emotional literacy is the ability to recognize, label and understand feelings. This is one of the most important skills children learn in early childhood.

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