Q: How can families foster healthy social emotional growth?
A: To foster social emotional growth in children, lean into differentiation, patience, and collective joy.
Have you ever discovered a clothing item just purchased has grown too small for your child in less than a month? What about a pair of shoes that no longer fits? These are definite signs of physical growth. But there are several other important developmental growth milestones. These include cognitive, language and movement, all of which are developing at the same time as the growth we physically see.
In short, social emotional growth is defined as the way a child manages emotions, shows empathy, solves problems, makes responsible decisions, and maintains healthy relationships. These milestones should continue to develop throughout high school. Some examples of this growth can be observed when a toddler notices when others are upset or hurt; when a three-year-old joins other children to play; and a seven-year-old wants to be liked and accepted by their friends.
Like physical growing pains, there can be social-emotional growing pains also. This is where differentiation, patience, and collective joy can make a positive impact. Recognizing that every child is unique and needs different supports will help decrease unrealistic expectations. When social-emotional growing pains are causing outbursts and miscommunication, strive for more patience. Allowing time for emotions to even out can go a long way toward building healthy relationships.
Finally, my favorite strategy is collective joy. Social emotional milestones can create havoc especially in preteens and teens. Creating opportunities and memories around concerts, game nights, bonfires, family adventures and sports events like Serena Williams’ last tournament as she evolves from being a professional tennis player can be a wonderful buffer.