Nurturing Your Child’s Emotional Growth

The importance of social and emotional development has taken on increased focus due to the social isolation many children (and adults) have experienced recently due to the pandemic and the disruption of in-person school and activities. Because having healthy relationships is vital for our well-being—in fact it is the most powerful and important source of genuine pleasure for children and adults alike—and helps to ward off negative impacts when life gets challenging, nurturing a child’s emotional development is crucial. Supporting children’s emotional growth sets them up to be more resilient in handling life’s ups and downs as they grow.

What is Social-Emotional Development?

Social-emotional development is the process through which children grow healthy identities—including the development of positive, internal self-esteem, and establish and maintain healthy relationships. For young children, this type of development helps them feel good about themselves, get along with others, and become comfortable and successful in more structured settings, like school. As they get older, children’s social-emotional development evolves to encompass understanding and regulating emotions in constructive ways, communicating effectively with others, making decisions that are self-caretaking (never harmful), and nurturing positive, caring relationships.

Why Is Social-Emotional Growth Important?

There are strong reasons to support children’s healthy social-emotional development. One of the most important is that this growth lays the groundwork for future success by building children’s inner self-worth, the cornerstone of mental health and resilience. As they grow, children are better able to adapt and handle the challenges they’ll face throughout their lives, including making good choices that help them take care of themselves and others.

Some research(1) has even shown that having a healthy social and emotional foundation leads to improved academic performance, improved behavior, and may result in:

· Increased confidence

· Happier and healthier friendships and relationships

· Fewer substance abuse problems

· Reduced anxiety and depression

· Decreased instances of engaging in harmful activities

Nurturing Social-Emotional Development

Whether at school or at home, the key to nurturing children’s emotional growth is to nurture positive relationships with children. It’s common for parents to be told that they should “teach” empathy, such as encouraging a child to acknowledge another person’s u