Parents can help children make and keep friends with emotion and social coaching

Using these modeling techniques, parents and caregivers can help children improve their social and emotional skills and behaviors

When children are socially and emotionally competent, they will be more successful in school and with making friends and maintaining relationships. There are many things parents can do to foster this development. Social and emotion coaching are two ways you can help this development.

Emotion coaching helps children develop the vocabulary for expressing their emotions to others. When children have a strong vocabulary they are able to express their feelings and regulate themselves much easier. It is important to remember when you are emotion coaching to label the emotions your child may be feeling, such as, excited, happy, sad, angry, anxious and frustrated. You can tailor how you coach, as well. If your child tends to become frustrated easily, try to point out the moments when your child may be frustrated but is staying calm. Tell your child what you see. For example, “You seem frustrated, but I like how you are keeping your body calm while you put that puzzle together!” If your child is fearful and you see them trying something new (approaching a child to play etc.), coach your child by simply saying, “That was really brave of you to ask that boy to play in the sand box with you!”

Social coaching helps children learn appropriate social skills. Of course, parents/caregivers are a child’s first teacher; therefore, modeling appropriate social skills during play and during other interaction is very important.  Parents can also prompt children to display these skills by asking for a turn while playing with a toy or asking for help while putting a puzzle together. If your child doesn’t feel like sharing at that time, ignore it and model being patient and waiting your turn. Sometimes this may feel awkward but, just like anything else your child learns, if you don’t show them or model the behavior, they won’t learn it! 

You teach them how to ride a bike, you teach them how to swim, you teach them how to write and you must teach them how to express their emotions and be respectful to others.

For additional information see pages 271-274 of Refrigerator Notes and Handouts: Child-Directed Play.

For more articles on child development, parenting and life skill development, please visit the Michigan State University Extension website.

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