The social and emotional well being of children is an important factor in early childhood development and should be nurtured and cherished as the foundation for character building, cognitive development and success in later life.
Although, in schools the focus is on academic achievement, at home, in the family as well as in communities we have a duty to nurture kids’ social competence and emotional intelligence as top life skills .
Emotional literacy helps children understand, manage and communicate feelings, achieve social skills and a sense of identity thus contributing to their emotional and social awareness.
A piece of old wisdom says that ‘it only takes two adults to make a child, but it takes the whole community to raise it’. And indeed, not only parents, but just as much carers, schools and communities can have a huge impact, positive or negative, upon the emotional state, self worth, physical development, intellectual achievements, life skills and moral attitudes of children as they develop and interact with their environment.
The social wellbeing is the situation where children are happy; friendly; have high self esteem and confidence; have an ongoing interest in understanding the social world around them and interacting with it. An important dimension of social well being is the emotional competence – the ability to effectively communicate their feelings, deal with emotional problems, understand and consider other people’s feelings and build positive and respectful relationships with their siblings, peers, family, teachers and the world.
We all dream that our children will develop emotional and social skills well above our own skills, this way setting up the base for later not only achieving high academic goals, but also a set of other important people skills such as: conflict resolution skills, anger management skills, creativity skills, assertiveness skills, ability to build relational trust, and other higher thinking skills.
What can we do to help ?
- set a good example and practice what we preach. We must think of ourselves as tools for learning and model desirable behaviors. Children learn a lot by observing others, therefore we must express views clearly and non defensively; listen, show empathy, politeness and respect.
- be aware of the advantages of staying in control. When asked to describe the “world’s worst health, education and social work professional”, children use to describe someone who doesn’t listen, unfriendly, rude, unapproachable, busy, boring, etc. This shows that, in a stressful world of personal insecurities and demanding jobs, communication skills and emotional literacy can fade sometimes, therefore we, the grown ups, must constantly be aware of and seek to improve our own behaviour, attitudes, social skills, emotional literacy and be friendly, honest, fair, respectful, patient and approachable. The result of this behaviour is rewarding for all parties: building positive relationships with children, increasing their self-esteem, helping them feel valued and safe, empower them, affirm their identity, encourage their creativity and help them build sustainable relationships with other people.
- Offer them many ways of effective communication. Grown ups must understand children’s methods, reasons and obstacles of communication and seek to enable them to express their views from early infancy and throughout their lives. However, language and a rich vocabulary are not the best ways that children use to communicate. Children’s play, card games, drawing, music, art, jokes and also general behavior can communicate a lot to whomever pays attention. Children also respond well to those additional means of communication. When I simply ask my children to tidy up, they usually ignore me, but if I write ‘Floor space taken. I can’t land’ on a paper aeroplane that magically lands on the windowsill, they get the message and the joke and enthusiastically respond by putting their toys away.
- Circle Time for Emotional Literacy
- Personalized books for children are a great way to help a child understand and cope with social and emotional issues such as birth, death, marriage, change, new experiences,…transitions, …key life events such as starting nursery, having a new baby in the family, or going to the doctor or dentist. (i.e.: Big Sister Book (Soft Cover), Big Sister Book (Soft Cover); Adoption Book (Soft Cover)) These books are great for building confidence, a sense of identity and ability to deal with life challenges safely.
- Social Skills Board Games can help children understand and deal with day to day challenging social situations, a great way to teach without lecturing.
Communication is not only about messages, facts, actions and events. People communicate about feelings and thoughts as well.This sort of communication is designed to assist our kids in their social emotional development.
A lack of emotional competence or literacy negatively affects children’s ability to relate to adults, to build and maintain friendships and to be socially successful. When the environment and the community or the parents are not even trying to model social emotional control and competence, it generates children with low self esteem, that can be shy, display no emotional control, can become withdrawn, inhibited or aggressive, impatient, critical, demanding and sometimes bossy. As a result, their peers will reject them. When they sense rejection, they don’t have the common sense, resources or the flexibility to change to a kinder more socially acceptable approach. They insist on strengthening the same attitude, thus the cycle of rejection perpetuates itself. Out of this cycle of rejection, bullying is born.
Other recommended books:
Therapeutic Storywriting : A Practical Guide to Developing Emotional Literacy in Primary Schools
Stay tuned as in the next post I will be exploring more about social emotional competence and how it can be a tool in dealing with bullying.
Social Skills For Little Learners – $14.99
Here’s a resource that makes teaching these tough-to-teach skills easier for you. Using story favorites and engaging activities, you’ll get 50 fun teaching activities, pull-out mini posters, and over 35 pages of timesaving reproducibles to help kids de…