Does your child have difficulty making or keeping friends? Friendship and good peer relationships are important for your child as these relationships help them develop confidence and self-esteem. Helping children with social skills and emotion regulation can make a big difference in their quality of life and help them build resilience.
In order for children to develop and maintain friendships, they need to have age-appropriate social skills. Children who struggle with making friends, often don’t understand what they are doing wrong and as a result, can become uncomfortable in settings where they are supposed to be having fun. For children who feel left out, special events such as birthday parties or holidays become a source of stress and unhappiness rather than a joy.
The link between social skills and young adult outcomes
According to a long term study, social and emotional skills in kindergarten might be the biggest predictor of success in adulthood. The children in this study, who had higher levels of social and emotional skills, had greater personal success, performed better academically, and had fewer overall problems. If your child is able to enjoy friendships, this gives them an advantage as they have more opportunities to learn from others and experience the wellbeing that comes from supportive relationships.
Researchers from Penn State and Duke University found that children who were better at sharing, listening, cooperating, and following the rules at age five were more likely to go to college. These children were also more likely to be employed full-time by age 25.
The improvement of social skills will have an effect both outside and inside the home. As your child gains social skills, improved relationships with friends outside of the family will be mirrored at home as well.
The importance of emotion regulation
Anyone who has children or works with children understands that we are not born knowing how to manage our feelings. All children sometimes have strong feelings and need to develop the ability to manage strong emotions.
How do we help our children manage emotions? We start by teaching children about feelings. Children need to learn how to accurately identify and name their feelings. This can be more difficult than it sounds because emotions are abstract and can sometimes be complex and conflicted. For young children, we begin by teaching them simple and basic emotion words. Words such as happy, sad, angry, and scared. When the child gets older it is appropriate to teach words for more complex feelings such as frustrated, nervous, and disappointed.
As children mature, they learn how to manage emotions. One way of understanding emotion management is to think about how we are able to reduce the intensity and duration of negative feelings. Sometimes children need help and support from the adults around them. For example, when a child understands and can name a strong feeling such as anger, then the child is more likely to speak about it. He or she may say, “I’m really angry right now.” When the child is able to do this it is less likely the child will strike out aggressively because speaking about feelings is a form of expression. Hopefully, the child will receive support from a nearby helpful adult. The adult can talk to the child with compassion and try to truly understand what the child is feeling. What may seem like a small disappointment to an adult can feel very big for a young child. It is important that the child’s feelings are not trivialized so they can feel understood by the adult. With the support of adults, the child will also learn that an uncomfortable emotion such as anger or sadness will not last forever. It will be felt and then it will pass.
Center for Therapeutic Services & Psychodiagnostics
At CFTSAP, we offer diagnostic and therapeutic services for children and adults. We can also help your child learn and practice social skills and emotion management. If you would like to learn more, you are welcome to call and book an appointment or fill out the contact form and click Send.