3 Ways to Support Social-Emotional Development in Children
By Dr. Cristi Bundukamara, EdD PMHNP — As part of the Raising Mentally STRONG Kids program, I developed what I now call “The Growth Wheel”. The Growth Wheel is divided into eight parts. Each part focuses on an area of normal development as we grow and age. One of the wedges of the Growth Wheel is “Emotional Development” which is what I’ll be focusing on in this post. Social-emotional development in children is primarily influenced by parents. The tools you have to help your children develop during the earlier years will help them understand their emotions once they become teenagers or adults. Healthy social-emotional development in your children allows them to deal with the social and emotional problems they will face when you are no longer there to assist them.
The way I like to help people remember to regulate their emotions is to “Think, Organize, Choose.” It’s a simple mantra that works really well with kids. It can help them stay focused and work through problems while helping them develop emotionally. Let’s take a quick look at the three ways you can support healthy social-emotional development in your children.
Learning the Mentally STRONG Method for yourself will empower you to start using the tools and modeling an example of strong emotional regulation. That is the first way that children learn. When you are in a challenging situation, your children are watching you and they can learn from how you handle that situation. When you stop, take a deep breath, and gather yourself, you can respond to the situation rather than reacting to it. This is a great first step in supporting healthy social-emotional development in your children because they will learn to respond to challenges based on your example.
Start talking to your kids about organizing their thoughts. Talking about the tools and tactics that can help them regulate their emotions will empower them to be more successful while handling the complex situations and relationships that come with growing up. Remember, this is a process! That’s why it’s called development. It takes time, so give yourself and your children grace.
Talk to your children about choices. Give them options to choose from, and make them choose how they will handle an emotional situation. Explain what the consequences might be based on their choices. A very important part of social-emotional development in children is the ability to make these decisions for themselves. As parents, we want to help guide them at first, but we also need to start empowering them to make their own choices.
Respect yourself, your children, and the process. And remember, you ARE Mentally STRONG and you CAN raise Mentally STRONG Kids!