The years from zero to five are the period of greatest growth and development for children.
It’s when they build a sense of self and develop the social skills to get along with others, as well as the emotional skills required to cope with the wide range of feelings that go hand in hand with being human.
These skills form the foundation for a child’s ongoing development, their mental health and wellbeing, and can even have a role to play in how well they do at school.
And because social and emotional skills
develop with practise, there are things you can do to help your children grow their skills in key areas, such as making decisions, managing life’s ups and downs, and developing friendships, social values and empathy.
3 ways to nurture your child’s development
As a parent or carer, make it your mission to:
1. Help them learn to consider other people
Grab every teachable moment to ask questions that encourage your kids to put themselves in someone else’s shoes.
Try asking: “How would you feel if… ?”, “How could you find out what he’s feeling sad about?” or “What could you do to help?” in response to real-life situations or those that crop up in stories or on TV.
This encourages children to think through situations and take other people’s feelings and perspectives into account.
2. Acknowledge their feelings
This helps kids identify emotions and understand how they work.
Try saying: “You look concerned – is something worrying you?” or “It sounds like you’re really upset – can you explain why?”
On the other hand, be mindful to avoid instructing children not to feel the way they do.
You might think saying “Don’t be scared” is reassuring, but it’s actually encouraging them to believe that some emotions are bad or wrong.
In reality, all feelings are valid and, in order to understand how to manage them, children need to be given the chance to experience and acknowledge them first.
3. Encourage them to make their own decisions
It’s a skill that helps children become more independent and responsible, so allow them to practise by creating opportunities for them to make choices between a few different things.
To make this exercise work, set it up so that you’re comfortable with all the different options your child has to choose between.
For this to be effective, the choice needs to genuinely be theirs, so you need to ensure you’ll be happy no matter what they choose.
And once they’ve made their choice, take time to ask a few questions that will prompt them to think through their reasoning.
This will help them learn how to evaluate options and think through consequences. Suggestions include: “What is it that you like about this one?”, “What makes it the best option?” or “How will this work?”