Social emotional health; a strong indicator of academic success

Healthy social and emotional development plays a strong role in the success and happiness of children and families.

Social and emotional skills can be taught and modeled through loving relationships.
Social and emotional skills can be taught and modeled through loving relationships.

When raising children, there are many areas of development to concentrate on and worry about. Experts in child development say children need stable, consistent and loving relationships.  Following through with regular child visits, immunization and dental appointments are considered a must.  In addition, nutrition choices should be varied, well balanced and healthy.  Playing with your child can teach valuable life lessons and reading is fundamental.  Michigan State University Extension also recognizes social and emotional health as being equally important in raising children who are healthy, safe and who are ready to learn upon school entry.

The Michigan Great Start systems team, in a May 2013 news release, stated that “Nine to 14 percent of all young children experience social and emotional problems that negatively affect their functioning and development.” Early social and emotional problems have been linked to mental and physical problems that can include obesity and depression.  What does all this mean for you as a parent or caregiver of children?

Social and emotional health is your child’s ability to seek out and form healthy strong relationships with family members and others.  It includes your child’s ability to not only express their emotions, but manage them as well. It also encompasses the ability to feel secure in exploring their environment and being able to solve problems that arise in daily activities; sharing, waiting for their turn or making a choice between two options.  All of these abilities can be taught and modeled through loving relationships with family members.  These early relationships help to shape and model a baby’s brain that can provide lifelong benefits.  What can you actually do to promote this important area of child development?  A Guide for Families with Children Birth to Age 8 was recently revised in a cooperative effort by the Michigan Department of Community Health, the Michigan Department of Education Office of Great Start, the Michigan Department of Human Services and the Early Childhood Investment Corporation.  The guide includes a list of indicators for children at each age from birth through age eight that outlines signs to look for in your own child.  In addition, it highlights what parents can do to support social and emotional development in their children.  Most of the recommendations are things that you probably already do each day that take no extra time or energy, and are free.  All of the recommendations give concrete examples of why they are important. They include:

  • Hold/cuddle your children
  • Respond  to your child’s efforts at communication
  • Enrich daily routines
  • Follow your child’s lead
  • Guide them through social situations
  • Learn age appropriate developmental milestones
  • Be consistent
  • Be open and honest
  • Model, model, model the words and actions you would like to see
  • Get involved and stay involved
  • Let your child make mistakes
  • Encourage independence and responsibility
  • Help your child advocate for themself

MSU Extension recognizes the importance of social emotional health in young children and across the lifespan by concentrating programming efforts directly on these issues.

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