Healthy Social and Emotional Development

July 18, 2019


Beginning with your baby’s very first smile, your child is continually learning how to interact with others. As your child grows, he or she will experience
a variety of big emotions like excitement, fear, or frustration. We call this social and emotional development.

Social development is a child’s ability to create and maintain close relationships. Emotional development is a child’s ability to identify, express, and
manage emotions.

Parents often worry about safeguarding their children’s physical well-being, but promoting their social and emotional welfare is just as important.

Social and emotional development is closely linked to a child’s overall development. Those who develop strong social and emotional skills tend to be happier
and do better in school. Plus, those same skills—getting along with others, following directions, and managing emotions—are critical to
workplace success later in life.

You can foster social and emotional health by establishing a warm, trusting relationship with your child. At home, play with your child every day and help
identify emotions as they arise.

At your child’s early childhood education program, teachers can foster social and emotional health, too. Teachers can establish trusting relationships
with children by:

  • Showing warmth and affection
  • Respecting and caring about every child
  • Teaching social and emotional skills
  • Modeling appropriate behavior

Have questions about your child’s development? Visit Help Me Grow Alaska or call 1.833.464.2527 for free parenting
and child development information. Another helpful service is Bright By Text, a free text messaging service
that sends parenting and child development information straight to your phone. Sign-up for free here.

Here are additional tips to support young children’s social and emotional development as they grow:

  • 2 months: cuddle, talk, and play with your baby during feeding, dressing, and bathing
  • 4 months: show your baby how to suck on her fingers to comfort herself when she’s upset
  • 6 months: play on the floor with your baby every day
  • 9 months: pay attention to the way he reacts to new situations and people; try to continue to do things that make your baby happy and comfortable
  • 1 year: spend more time praising and encouraging wanted behaviors rather than punishing unwanted behaviors
  • 18 months: describe the emotion your child is feeling; for example, say, “You are happy when we read this book.”
  • 2 years: at this age children still play next to each other (and not with each other); for play dates, give children lots of toys to play with
  • 3 years: talk about your child’s emotions; for example, say, “I can tell you feel mad because you threw the puzzle piece.”
  • 4 years: during play dates, let your child solve her own problems with friends, but be nearby to help out and coach if needed
  • 5 years: continue to arrange play dates, trips to the park, or play groups to encourage him to get along with others