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 know how to build and maintain friendships with peers and relationships with adults. 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.

Much of what children learn from their parents is through modeling. They learn through our actions and choices. Developing social and emotional skills 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 (2015).

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.


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

How Do You Teach Social and Emotional Skills?

Top Ten Reasons to Proactively Teach Social and Emotional Skills

Introducing… Elements of a Confident Kid

A Time to Pause: Reflecting on Developing in the Coming School Year


© Copyright, 2020, Jennifer Smith Miller. All rights reserved.

7 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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