How to Teach Kids Emotional and Social Skills

Teaching our kids emotional and social skills are important jobs that we as parents have.  In her book 13 Things Mentally Strong Parents Don't Do, Amy Morin outlines specific exercises that teach kids of all ages how to manage their emotions and sharpen their social skills. With regular practice, kids can develop the mental muscle they need to reach their greatest potential.

Here are a few simple strategies that can help your child begin to gain emotional competence:

  • Label your child's feelings. Say things like "It looks like you're feeling sad today" or "I can tell you are mad right now." Eventually, your child will learn to verbalize his feelings on his own.
  • Validate your child's feelings. Resist the urge to say things like "Calm down--it's not a big deal." Instead, say, "I know you're really upset right now." Regardless of whether you think his emotional response is out of proportion to the situation, teach your child that it's OK to have big feelings.
  • Make empathy faces.  Say, "Make a face that shows me how that boy felt when you hit him." When your child makes a sad or angry face, he'll actually experience that emotion for a moment. And he'll develop more empathy--which is a key ingredient in social success.
  • Let your child experience uncomfortable emotions. It's healthy to feel bored, angry, scared, or lonely sometimes. Teach healthy coping strategies to deal with discomfort, and coach your kids as they practice. With your support, they can learn that uncomfortable emotions are tolerable.
  • Correct the behavior, not the emotion. Make it clear that angry feelings are OK but aggressive behavior isn't. And teach your child that it's OK to feel sad but screaming at the top of her lungs in the grocery store isn't OK. Use discipline that teaches better ways to deal with emotions.

About the Author Jude Foulston

Jude is a mom of 2 youngish kids. Much of Jude's parenting journey is influenced by the learning and insights she has gained through working with the team from TomorrowToday who are both experts on the Future of Work and pretty awesome parents of older kids.

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