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  • Why It's Crucial to Help Your Child Know When She's Feeling Angry, Sad or Happy

    You can help lay the foundations for your child's interpersonal skills with these tips.
    by Lei Dimarucut-Sison . Published Feb 26, 2019
Why It's Crucial to Help Your Child Know When She's Feeling Angry, Sad or Happy
PHOTO BY Di Lewis/Pexels
  • It is amazing how rapidly children develop in the first few years of life. According to Mayo Clinic, a baby will triple his birth weight, go through the crawl / stand / walk process, and learn to communicate and say a few words by the time he turns a year old. The period from birth to 5 years old is the most crucial when it comes to their physical, mental, and socio-emotional progress. Of the three, the socio-emotional aspect may be the least one parents notice, but it actually plays a big role in your child's future — just as important as the physical or mental aspect.

    Socio-emotional learning (SEL) is "the process through which children and adults understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions," according to Casel, an organization in the United States that lends support to educators and policy leaders in enhancing SEL experiences and outcomes for Pre-K to 12 students. 

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    Traits of a child with a developed socio-emotional intelligence

    A child has developed his socio-emotional intelligence if he has the ability to manage his emotions and relate well with others. So how do you know your child is getting there? Your child exhbits the following, according to PBS, a broadcaster and television program distributor in the U.S., :

    • Labels feelings by observing facial epxressions
    • Has the ability to express feelings properly in difficult situations
    • Shows interest in playing with other kids and exhibits cooperation
    • Develops friendships, even if they don't really understand the concept yet
    • Attempts to help other kids in need
    • Accepts compromise suggested by an adult to resolve conflicts 

    In reality, however, acquiring these traits and nurturing a child's socio-emotional growth is a long process that needs the support of family members, the school community, or any other adult the child interacts with. 

    Kate Zinsser, an assistant professor of Psychology at the University of Illinois whose focus is on children's social and emotional preparedness, wrote, "Every adult who regularly interacts with your child has the opportunity to contribute to her [socio-emotional learning] in a variety of ways."

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    How to help your child manage his emotions and relate well with other people

    Zinsser lists down the following activities parents can do to support children's social and emotional competencies:

    1. Train your child to identify emotions.

    Your child may have felt certain emotions that he does not know yet the name. Through observation, help your child recognize them. Zinsser suggests a simple activity of showing your child pictures and saying, "When I make this face, it means I'm feeling _____."

    The book Masaya Ako by Adarna House, which contains illustrations of different facial expressions with labels of the emtion in English and Filipino, will be helpful. 

    2. Train your child to identify these emotions in real life.

    Now that he knows the emotions, put this knowledge into practice. Zinsser recommends, "You can guide a child to notice the feelings of an affronted peer and suggest possible solutions. For example, 'Serena is crying. She seems sad that no one has invited her to play. I bet she would feel better if you would be willing to share your trucks with her.'" 

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    3. Use storytelling to practice this skill.

    One important skill your child needs to develop is empathy, which is being able to share someone else's feelings. According to psychiatrist Dr. David Sack, “Empathy is a skill that experts from many disciplines have deemed important for personal, relationship and career success.” Storytelling is an effective tool in teaching empathy because it puts the focus on a third person, allows your child to think of instances when he might have felt the same way as the character, while highlighting lessons you want him to learn. To get started with some read-aloud children's stories, click here

    4. Validate and encourage his feelings.

    "Minimizing, punishing, or dismissing a child’s emotions does not give the child the opportunity to learn how to respond constructively to those emotions," says Zinsser.

    Responding constructively (e.g., asking "What's wrong?" instead of saying "Stop crying") is a better way to teach kids about emotional control. 

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