About Social and Emotional Development

Five SE Skills by Jennifer Miller

Too often we give children answers to remember rather than problems to solve.                                                      

 – Roger Lewin

Kids with strong social and emotional skills are confident communicators. They have a sense of who they are, both their strengths and limitations. They can identify their emotions and actively manage those emotions in a constructive way. They appreciate that every individual is different and unique and they watch for social cues, nonverbal and verbal, to respond in healthy, constructive ways to others. They know how to build and maintain friendships with peers and relationships with adults. They learn that they can better understand themselves when they learn from others who are different than they are. They can play and problem solve collaboratively.  And they can evaluate the consequences of a decision and make responsible choices based on that evaluation. Parents can be confident that when our children are at school, at summer camp, or involved in a community project, they have the skills to relate to others in ways that are caring, constructive, and contributing. And when our children are faced with difficult decisions, they are equipped with the tools to think through the consequences of their actions, empathize with others involved, and ultimately make a responsible choice.

Children who are raised by parents committed to constantly honing their social and emotional intelligence grow with a belief that their inherent core is good and they can bring goodness to the world, that no aspect of who they are needs to be hidden by shame. Additionally, children view their peers, neighbors and kids across town with curiosity and wonder and a learning mindset while parents challenge them while challenging themselves to explore judgment and implicit bias, particularly of black, brown, immigrant or any individuals or groups who might be considered part of “other” and not “us.”

Much of what children learn from their parents is through modeling. They learn through our actions and choices. Developing social and emotional skills with an equity and inclusion lens is a continual lifelong learning process. We can always become more empathetic, practice patience, improve our response to conflict situations, and deepen our listening and reflection abilities. Just being more aware of ourselves as social and emotional models for our kids can impact our choices and reactions to day-to-day situations.

What are the critical social and emotional skills kids need to learn?

The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) at the University of Illinois at Chicago identifies five core areas of skill development (2020).

Self-awareness – the ability to identify one’s emotions, the causes of those emotions, and reflect upon and examine the behaviors or responses to those emotions to learn from them and make better choices if necessary. Here are some examples from CASEL’s new definition:

  • Integrating personal and social identities
  • Identifying personal, cultural, and linguistic assets
  • Identifying one’s emotions
  • Demonstrating honesty and integrity
  • Linking feelings, values, and thoughts
  • Examining prejudices and biases
  • Experiencing self-efficacy
  • Having a growth mindset
  • Developing interests and a sense of purpose

Social awareness – the ability to identify and understand the emotions of others (empathy) in order to choose a response or behavior that demonstrates sensitivity to those emotions. CASEL’s examples include:

  • Managing one’s emotions
  • Identifying and using stress management strategies
  • Exhibiting self-discipline and self-motivation
  • Setting personal and collective goals
  • Using planning and organizational skills
  • Showing the courage to take initiative
  • Demonstrating personal and collective agency

Self-management – the ability to control one’s emotions and behaviors in order to persist toward the accomplishment of a goal and/or promote and strengthen a relationship with another. Examples include:

  • Taking others’ perspectives
  • Recognizing strengths in others
  • Demonstrating empathy and compassion
  • Showing concern for the feelings of others
  • Understanding and expressing gratitude
  • Identifying diverse social norms, including unjust ones
  • Recognizing situational demands and opportunities
  • Understanding the influences of organizations and systems on behavior

Relationship skills – the abilities that foster the growth of a connection with another person or group including verbal and nonverbal communication skills, listening, managing emotions, and constructive problem-solving. Examples include:

  • Communicating effectively
  • Developing positive relationships
  • Demonstrating cultural competency
  • Practicing teamwork and collaborative problem-solving
  • Resolving conflicts constructively
  • Resisting negative social pressure
  • Showing leadership in groups
  • Seeking or offering support and help when needed
  • Standing up for the rights of others

Responsible Decision Making – the ability to make choices that not only move a person toward a goal but also demonstrate responsibility by consideration of the consequences to all others who could be affected by the decision and acting according to the best outcomes for all. After making a choice, taking responsibility for the consequences of that choice is necessary as well. Examples include:

  • Demonstrating curiosity and open-mindedness
  • Learning how to make a reasoned judgment after analyzing information, data, and facts
  • Identifying solutions for personal and social problems
  • Anticipating and evaluating the consequences of one’s actions
  • Recognizing how critical thinking skills are useful both inside and outside of school
  • Reflecting on one’s role to promote personal, family, and community well-being
  • Evaluating personal, interpersonal, community, and institutional impacts

For more about social and emotional development, check out:

The Power of Parenting with Social and Emotional Learning by Jennifer Miller, The Huffington Post Education Section

Chinese Translation – The Power of Parenting with Social and Emotional Learning by Xiangyan Liu (Yannie Liu) 刘湘燕 and Wenchao Li (Winnie Li) 李文超 of Angel Education




© Copyright, 2023, Jennifer Smith Miller. All rights reserved.

9 Comments on “About Social and Emotional Development”

  1. I’ve found that social and emotional development, just like physical development can very from child to child and is not entirely age dependent. Also, just like physical development, just because someone might be “behind” their peers, doesn’t mean that they will remain so in the future. As a Martial Arts instructor for the past 18 years, I’ve had the opportunity to work with students who fall more in the unique category than the mainstream. Self management is a large part of martial arts training, however all five core areas are developed in a good martial arts program.

    • Great points, Lura! Development is a continuum and does vary from child to child. And different skills and milestones – physical, cognitive, social and emotional – take place on differing timelines. Great to hear that you are teaching self-awareness through Martial Arts! Your students are fortunate that you see them as individuals and support their development wherever they are. Contributing to the dialogue about kids’ development helps us all become more effective and understanding when working with children. Thanks for your contribution!

  2. How can I get permission from you to use your photo (above)? We’re charged with the task of developing trainings for teachers across the state of AZ.

    • Hi! Thanks for writing and reading my site! I’m glad you want to use my illustration. I subscribe to several education providers in AZ including the after school network so perhaps you are part of one of the organizations I am already connected with? I do sell my illustrations. There are two ways to use them. Either you can purchase a jpeg digital file that I’ll send you. I only ask that you include my signature to credit my work. It’s already on the illustration. That’s $15 and I can invoice you through Paypal. You can also purchase a high-quality print – matted or unmatted – to post it in person and you can also have for scanning for presentations. You can find that on my “shop” page, https://confidentparentsconfidentkids.org/confident-parents-academy/.

      Good luck in planning your teacher trainings! Thanks for reaching out! Glad to be connected!
      All the best,

  3. Pingback: School Ready? 5 Life Skills Every Child Needs (and their parents’ too!)

    • Thank you so much for sharing this resource! I can’t wait to check it out. It is so true that when our child goes through big transitions like starting school, it’s just as big of an adjustment for us as parents! Getting our heads around it and how we can best support them is so important so that we exude confidence as they move into their new environments with new teachers and peers! And you are so right, adjusting to those big transitions require all five social and emotional skills. I wrote an article on the transition from preschool to kindergarten, the big feelings involved, and how we, as parents, can support our children through it all. So adding to your resource list: “In-Between Here and There” and wishing you a smooth and happy transition into “big kid school!” 🙂 https://wp.me/p2F3o5-b7

  4. Pingback: The Happy Child

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