There are many things children need to learn to succeed in school, work, and life. Taking care of themselves, running a household, and managing time and money are just a few of the life skills to teach kids before they leave the nest. Children also need social and emotional skills.
Social and emotional learning equips children with the self-awareness and interpersonal skills to set goals, handle challenges, and make good decisions.
I will share six ways that parents can teach social and emotional life skills to children of all ages:
1. Talk about feelings
Children with a rich emotional vocabulary are better at recognizing emotions in themselves and others. Parents can use the RULER method to build children’s emotional vocabulary starting in pre-K.
The RULER method teaches children to:
- Recognize emotions based on physical cues.
- Understand what caused the feelings.
- Label how they’re feeling.
- Express their emotions appropriately.
- Regulate their emotions.
In addition to teaching children to recognize their own emotions, instill empathy by sharing personal stories about feelings and exploring the emotions of characters in stories and books.
2. Promote prosocial behavior
Prosocial behavior is when people do things that don’t directly benefit themselves like being polite, sharing with a friend, and helping others. Prosocial behavior is associated with better interpersonal relationships and a positive self-image.
Promote prosocial behavior by noticing and praising good behavior, reading books about friendships and relationships, and modeling prosocial behaviors by treating others and yourself with respect and kindness. Help children understand the why behind social rules by drawing the connection between good or bad behavior and social consequences.
3. Set future goals
Long-term goals show what can be accomplished through hard work and determination and teaches kids to consider their future in decision-making. Start talking about the future when children are young to inspire them to dream big. Big goals like going to college may seem overwhelming or too far away, but parents can teach kids how to break their long-term goals down into a step-by-step plan.
Modeling is one of the best ways to do this. Have you been thinking about a career change? Maybe you want to get a degree that lets you work from home or earn your master’s to boost your earning potential. Talk to kids about your goals and strategies that let you achieve them, like earning your degree online or applying for financial aid. Persevering despite obstacles sets an example that children are sure to remember.
4. Teach habit formation
Every parent knows the importance of building healthy habits like good hygiene, a balanced diet, and an active lifestyle early in life. Consistency and clear expectations provide the framework for a healthy lifestyle while modeling gives kids an example to follow. However, this doesn’t necessarily teach children how to form habits.
Teaching habit formation gives children the skills to form good habits and break bad ones into adulthood. Ask children to reflect on how habits influence their lives, connect habits to triggers, and develop strategies for replacing old habits with new ones. Some children may respond better to a rewards-based system while others need to eliminate triggers to avoid temptation.
5. Use natural and logical consequences
Natural and logical consequences build self-discipline by directly connecting children’s actions to their consequences. An example of a natural consequence is not having a clean shirt to wear because they didn’t put their clothes in the laundry. A logical consequence, on the other hand, is carried out by a caregiver — for example, cleaning up a mess they made or losing driving privileges after taking the car without permission. Take time to explain when implementing consequences so children take ownership of their decisions and learn how to make better choices in the future.
6. Encourage resilience
Resilience is one of the most important traits parents can instill in their children. Resilience is what lets kids accept consequences and bounce back from failure instead of giving up when things get difficult. Children develop resilience in environments where they feel safe to make mistakes and take risks instead of shying away from challenges. Parents raise resilient children when they praise effort over achievement, teach children to problem-solve, and foster a flexible mindset.
Resilience isn’t just about letting kids fail but rather teaching children to cope with their emotions, learn from mistakes, and keep moving forward. Parents also need to be mindful of how they talk about their own failures and frustrations. Do you dwell on the negative, or are you modeling a positive mindset for your kids?
Raising children who make good decisions involves more than setting rules and teaching healthy habits. For kids to take the lessons they learn in childhood into adulthood and beyond, they need the awareness and self-management skills to connect actions to outcomes.
– Article Contribution by Joyce Wilson (www.teacherspark.org)
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