Promoting social and emotional development and preventing problems caused by maladaptive developmentis clearly important to individuals and to society, but how do those socio-emotional skills develop?They begin with the relationships children form with the people around them, including parents, caregivers,and peers.The Role of ParentsParents and families play an enormous role in shaping a child’s social and emotional development. Earlyrelationships with parents lay the foundation on which social competency and peer relationships arebuilt. Parents who support positive emotional development interact with their children affectionately;show consideration for their feelings, desires and needs; express interest in their daily activities; respecttheir viewpoints; express pride in their accomplishments; and provide encouragement and support duringtimes of stress.36 This support greatly increases the likelihood that children will develop early emotionalcompetence, will be better prepared to enter school, and less likely to display behavior problems athome and at school.37 This is why many preschool programs include a focus on parent involvement andparenting education.The Role of Teachers/Early Childhood EducatorsMost children spend many hours each week in the care of someone other than their parents. These caregiversplay the same role in promoting social and emotional development as do parents when childrenare young. Just as parents who are warm and responsive are more likely to promote strong social andemotional skills in their children, so too are early childhood educators and teachers, which means thatthe classroom environment must enable teachers the time to focus on individual children. Just as it isimportant for a consistent attachment to form between a parent and child, so too is such an attachmentimportant for caregiver and child. That means that staff turnover in preschool programs should be keptto a minimum.38, 39The Role of PeersEmotionally healthy children engage in positive play behaviors, develop mutual friendships, and are morelikely to find acceptance from their peers. Through their play, they learn how to work in teams and cooperatewith others. Their behavior and interactions influence the way in which teachers perceive them andthe way they are treated by their peers. As early as preschool, the relationships children develop with oneanother can have a lasting impact on academic achievement, because they can contribute to more positivefeelings about school and eagerness to engage in classroom activities, which can, in turn, lead to higherlevels of achievement.40 Conversely, early rejection by peers has been associated with persistent academicand social difficulties in elementary school.41 That is why it is important to have skilled preschool teacherswho can intervene when they see children having difficulties with peers and help the children learn howto resolve conflicts, regulate emotion, and respond to the emotions of others.
December 8, 2011