Developing Children’s Social & Emotional Skills (SEL) – Part 2

Tips and advice to help your child develop SEL skills at home

To reiterate following on from Part 1, Jumbo Early Education is excited to be taking part in the ‘Be You Program’ developed and delivered by Beyond Blue. The ‘Be You Program’ focusses on growing a mentally healthy generation.

The biggest take away from our last article is that when an early education service and families work together, there are many benefits for children’s social and emotional development. Here is a quick recap from part 1 on collaboration between families and Jumbo:

  1. Talk about SEL (social and emotional skills)

Conversations between educators and families help reinforce the crucial role SEL has in children’s development. When these conversations happen regularly, you can each check-in and share valuable information about children. For example, regarding experiences, strengths, challenges, or need for additional support.

  1. Build relationships 

Build relationships with external providers – like parenting or family support services, mental health professionals, and health services. These services can help educators support children and families. Such connections strengthen partnerships with families and within the local community.

  1. Strategies work better together

Through partnerships, you educators can work with families to make the most of planned and spontaneous learning opportunities. Educators can build families’ understanding of SEL, develop their confidence to support children’s social and emotional skills, and encourage them to talk with children about emotions.

How to develop your child’s SEL skills at Jumbo and at home 

Below are helpful tips and advice that anyone can follow, in line with our educators’ best practices, to help children develop their SEL. First, we’ll give you general advice for families with young children to start working on, and later you’ll find more detailed tips to guide you as your child grows up. Without further ado, here are some tips that families with children of any age can follow: 

  • Be affectionate and warm; offer security for children by being consistent and predictable.
  • Have frequent face-to-face interactions, including making eye contact, smiling and laughing together; respond to a child’s signals and preferences; talk with children about what’s happening and what will happen next; comfort and help them manage their feelings.
  • Use social and emotional skills to show children how they work,  for example, if you talk with children about your own mistakes, say sorry, show them negative experiences can be learning opportunities for everyone.
  • Describe and label emotions, for example, “I enjoyed doing the puzzle with you, it was fun” or “Are you feeling sad today because your friend’s not here?”.
  • Tell stories, play games, sing, dance and use imaginary play,  encourage them to explore, play and try new things.
  • Support children to make choices and solve problems appropriate for their developmental level, for example, “Do you want to wear your red or blue dress?”.
  • Provide opportunities for interactions with others – for example, playgroups, inviting a child’s friend to your home so they can play together, going to the park where other children are playing, etc.

Tips and advice for older children

In addition, families with older children are also encouraged to:

  • Talk about feelings  – Families should encourage children to discuss how they’re feeling and then listen with empathy, so they feel understood. Children can be shown that while feelings are normal, and all feelings are okay, it’s important to understand them. Understanding and talking about feelings is a way to manage them effectively. 
  • Support children’s confidence  – Families can help children to identify and develop their strengths by urging them to have a go at things and find activities they enjoy. Families can acknowledge their efforts, celebrate their successes, and inspire them to keep trying and learning. 
  • Give effective praise  – Motivating should consider children’s ages and abilities and focus on their efforts and successes. It teaches them what they’re doing well – and they’ll use this learning in future experiences. Praise helps children learn to think positively about themselves. Effective praise acknowledges children, is specific, compares how they’re going with past performance, connects feelings of enjoyment with the experience, and links success to effort. Examples include “You thought long and hard about putting that jigsaw puzzle together”, “You’ve drawn on so much more of your page than last time” or “You’re excited about doing counting today”.
  • Provide play opportunities  – Playing with other children provides practice in important social skills, like sharing, taking turns and cooperation. Families support children by praising appropriate play behaviour, for example, “I noticed how nicely you shared your toys. That made it fun for both of you”.
  • Lead by example  – Children learn self-regulation skills by watching those around them. When families effectively regulate their own feelings and behaviour, they model self-regulation skills. This happens every day, such as the way adults have conversations, wait for traffic lights to change or decide what TV show to watch.
  • Support them to make choices  – To become responsible people, children need practice in making choices appropriate for their age and experience level. Families can help children build decision-making skills by encouraging them to explore options and think through the reasons for their choices. Involving children in family decision-making helps them to develop related skills and drives cooperative family relationships.
  • Creative problem-solving  – Families can support thinking and problem-solving skills. They can prompt children to think of solutions to issues. Solutions can be explored by asking questions, for example, “What could you do about that?” or “What might happen if you try that?”.
  • Teach assertive communication skills – Show children how to communicate confidently and respectfully their thoughts, feelings and needs to others in an assertive way,  for example, “I really don’t want to play that game. It’s too dangerous. Let’s play a different game instead”.
  • Acknowledge uncomfortable feelings  – This is not a sign of weakness or failure. It sets a good example for children by showing them that everyone has uncomfortable or challenging feelings at times and that they’re manageable.

We’d love to hear from some of our families via Story Park how implementing some of these tips goes at home!