Help Me Grow | United Way of Utah County

How Parents Can Model Social-Emotional Skills

Nearly all children could benefit from social/emotional coaching. The purpose of social and emotional coaching is to help children learn social skills, emotional intelligence, and behaviors. These abilities can help children relate to their peers and regulate their own emotions. It might sound like a daunting task for parents and caregivers to teach children how to regulate their emotions. However, there are very simple things parents can do as they interact with their little ones daily that can help them pick up these skills. Vroom also has simple tips that can help parents teach children through play.

Express mildly negative emotions: The first thing parents can do is express their own mildly negative emotions, and then talk children through the coping mechanisms. It is important to choose a negative emotion or situation where the parent is still in control of their emotions. An example of this could be expressing mild frustration while driving with a child behind an aggressive driver. A parent could say “This driver just pulled right in front of me, and that makes me feel a little afraid and frustrated that they are not driving safely. I am going to get into the lane next to me so that I am not behind an unsafe driver.”

Label Emotions: Parents can explain to children how people or characters are feeling. An example might be saying to a child, “You put a blanket on that baby doll. The baby doll looks happy to be warm under a blanket!”

Validate Emotions: Parents can let children know that it is okay to feel positive, and negative emotions. For example saying, “it looks like Tom knocked over your tower of blocks and you are feeling angry about that. It’s okay to feel angry when our block towers fall over.”

Model Emotions: Parents can model emotions using their own experiences, or by using characters or stuffed animals. For example, having a character say, “I am so sad I can’t go to the store with everyone else. I am going to think of a way to feel better!”

Label Social Relationships: When parents see positive social interactions and relationships they can point this out to their children. For example describing what they see, “That little boy just shared his cookie with the little girl sitting by him! That is so nice of him. Maybe they will be friends now.”

Model Ways to Engage with Peers: Often caregivers or older siblings need to model healthy ways to engage with peers. Parents can do this with characters and stuffed animals through play with children. For example, they might say “I think I will ask if I can have a turn!” “Can I please play with you?” “Hi, my name is Robo-Dog, what is your name?”

So much of what we can do to coach children can happen through play. Modeling these social emotional skills is a great way for children to learn how to self-regulate.

To learn more about helping toddlers understand their emotions or emotional intelligence in early childhood you can click on the links.

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