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6 Methods for promoting children’s social and emotional health

Investing in children and their overall wellbeing is perhaps one of the most honorable things a society can do to build a better future. And when we talk about the concept of child health, it’s essential to understand that it goes beyond physical wellbeing. 

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” 

Additionally, childhood is a critical stage of life that impacts social-emotional health given the rapid development that takes place in the brain. Social-emotional skills, or lack thereof, are some of the most important predictors of a child’s future mental health and the roles they will assume in society. 

Additionally, children need a stable environment to thrive, including nurturing, stable role models, protection from threats, good health and nutrition, and access to educational opportunities. This involves not only parents but also essential figures such as educators.

In general, the quality of the environment, opportunities, and relationships that children experience can shape their well-being and development.

Celebrating the International day of families

Initiated in 1994 by the United Nations (UN), the International Day of Families is observed on May 15 to celebrate and honor families’ importance and role as building blocks for society. We usually spend our most critical and formative years with our families, who often become the most influential figures in our lives. 

On May 15th, the world recognized the International Day of Families.  This day inspired us so we thought it would be an excellent opportunity to share six methods for promoting children’s social-emotional health that can be useful for both parents and teachers. 

1. Parents are their children’s first teachers

From the moment a child is born, parents become teachers and a child’s most influential figures in life. Day to day, children will look to their parents to see how they act, talk, treat others, and of course, how they care for them.

So early on, parents’ actions become a sort of guide to make sense of the world around them and a map to how they interact with themselves and others, in addition to helping them develop:

  • Early social skills
  • Values and principals
  • Secure attachments
  • Emotional awareness and intelligence

2. Teaching emotional intelligence in children

Emotional intelligence in children is associated with many important outcomes, such as paying more attention, having more empathy, more engagement in school, and positive relationships.

Training emotional intelligence involves developing skills such as self-regulation, identification and understanding of one’s own emotions and others, and the ability to express them. 

Parents and educators can foster emotional intelligence by valuing all emotions, being patient with a child’s expression of them, and using emotional experience as an opportunity for bonding, helping them label emotions and solve the issue at hand.

3. Help them learn and practice positive self-talk

Positive self-talk nurtures resilience and builds self-esteem, making it an excellent coping mechanism for kids. But positive self-talk is about more than having a positive attitude – it’s an essential part of social-emotional learning.

In general, positive self-talk aims to help children recognize their strengths and opportunities for improvement and have an enthusiastic attitude towards trying again.

An excellent way to start teaching children this tool is to first look at the way we communicate in front of them. Children can learn a great deal by watching their caregivers, teachers, parents, etc. So, modeling positive self-talk in your own life when faced with a problematic situation is an excellent opportunity to help them learn. 

When teachers, parents, or caregivers teach their children this type of self-talk from an early age, they are not only teaching them to be resilient but also empowering them by giving them valuable life skills. 

This allows kids to view the world and themselves positively by understanding that setbacks and failures do not have to get in the way of their goals or dreams.

Two girls play hula hoop

4. Early detection of social-emotional problems

Positive social and emotional development is crucial for children’s overall wellbeing. During early childhood, many rapid cognitive and physical changes occur. 

At the same time, children are beginning to experience complex emotions for the first time, such as frustration, and this can lead to a range of social, emotional, and behavioral challenges, including

  • fears, worries, and anxiety (e.g. separation anxiety, fears of strangers, the dark, storms, animals, loud noises)
  • Defiance and noncompliance (e.g. ignoring instructions)
  • aggression (e.g. biting, hitting, kicking, scratching and pushing)
  • temper tantrums

However, the main difference between typical developmental problems and social-emotional difficulties is that the former are transient while the latter are persistent. In cases where children have experienced adverse childhood experiences, they will be more likely to experience social, emotional, and behavioral difficulties. 

Thankfully, there are many measures that educators and clinicians may use to screen for developmental problems in the early childhood years and design effective intervention plans.

5. Encourage parents to actively promote the healthy social-emotional development of their children

Another essential aspect to keep in mind is that you cannot separate a child’s social-emotional health and wellbeing from their environment. Educators and other professionals working with children are in an excellent position to address family adversity and adverse childhood experiences with parents and how this might contribute to their social and emotional functioning. 

6. Pyramid model for promoting social-emotional competence in infants and toddlers

The Pyramid Model outlines evidence-based practices for promoting healthy social and emotional development in children. The model divides intervention practices into three tiers.

The first level includes providing nurturing and responsive caregiving relationships to the child and a supportive environment for the child. This consists of the primary caregiver, family, or the child’s teacher. 

The second level of the pyramid includes teaching social skills and regulating emotions. In contrast, the third level involves using comprehensive interventions to help children with persistent challenging behaviors by supporting the development of new skills. 

How Our Little Roses fosters girls’ social-emotional health

At Our Little Roses, our mission is to prepare Honduran girls who are not able to live in a traditional family situation to be outstanding members of society. We do this by creating a healthy environment that promotes Christian values, love, and respect. 

We also understand that health needs a comprehensive approach. Thanks to our Medical Mission Teams, Dr. Tony, and the generosity of our donors, we have built an off-site health clinic that provides quality healthcare for both our girls and residents.  

In addition, we honor the significance and importance of fostering girls’ social-emotional health by providing an environment with excellent role models and the resources and attention they need to thrive and overcome any past adverse experiences. 

The notion that behavior is an expression of a child’s need for belonging and connection underscores the need for patience and love on the part of the adult. Instead of condemning children and judging them based on their behavior, at Our Little Roses, we use the Positive Discipline model which allows adults to focus on how to work with a child to build self-confidence and independence so that the child will have the skills to handle any situation in the future. 

This is just one of the ways that Our Little Roses works to develop the girls entrusted in our care in a holistic, loving way.  Another way of helping the girls understand that they are a part of a much larger world with a diverse array of people is through our sponsors.  We call our sponsors our “extended family” as they bring a sense of community and the knowledge that there are people from all over the world who care about each and every girl. By sponsoring one of our girls, you can help us continue this mission of transforming and empowering through education and love.