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Things Parents Can Do to Help With Social and Emotional Development in Their Children

Navigating the twists and turns of parenthood can feel like guesswork at times. However, there are some basic and long-term strategies parents can adopt that make their jobs easier and also boost children's social and emotional development. Being there for your children, interacting with them at their developmental level and providing tools and resources that challenge them will work wonders for your relationship and your children's overall development.

Do Some Research

Learning about children's milestones at various ages and stages will help you understand your child's developmental needs and what you can do to meet them. "Learn about the stages of child development, what's appropriate at each stage in terms of behavior and what steps are most important to enhance a child's growth at each of those stages," says Ben Tanzer, the senior director of strategic communications at Prevent Child Abuse America and a former caseworker at the New York Foundling Hospital.

Long-Term Strategies

Kristin Reinsberg, family therapist, suggests several long-term strategies that parents can adopt to support their children's social and emotional development. These strategies include being a responsive caregiver and watching your children's preferences and challenges during play, showing affection to your children, maintaining a safe environment that also allows for you child to explore and experiment, showing an interest in children's activities, supporting their emerging skills, talking about emotions in an age-appropriate way and valuing differences.

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It Takes a Village

Tanzer says, "I encourage parents to trust their instincts, no one knows their children better than they do." That said, parents can also embrace the resources available to support their children in getting to a new stage of social and emotional development. If your toddler needs help learning how to play, consider joining a neighborhood parents' group or attending a public library program geared toward infants and toddlers. Inspire your preschooler to role-play and fantasize by signing him up for an art or dance class at the recreation center. If your school-age child needs help managing emotions or navigating conflicts, a school counselor or health care professional can help with anger management strategies and relaxation techniques.

Book It

The Technical Assistance Center on Social Emotional Intervention has an approach parents can use to guide their children through challenging patches in their emotional development. Select books with characters and situations your child relates to. Read a book together and discuss questions and comparisons the story brings up. The Center recommends Glad Monster, Sad Monster by Ed Emberley and Anne Miranda to talk about feelings and how they change. Guide your child through peaceful conflict resolution with Martine Agassi's Hands Are Not For Hitting. Talk about differences and making friends while reading Marcus Pfister's The Rainbow Fish. Explore the themes of fear and bravery during a telling of Pete Seeger's Abiyoyo.

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Promoting Positive Self-Worth

Through all the ages and stages, one of the fundamental ways parents support their children's social and emotional development is by helping them have a positive self-image. PBS.org says skip the empty praise and head right for the specifics. Tell a child, "I saw how hard you worked on the playground to finish the monkey bars" or "We appreciated how you picked up your toys off the floor of your room."

Another way you make your child feel worthwhile is by showing him respect. Explain rules and consequences. Take the time to listen to his concerns. Ask for his opinions and input when making decisions. Make him feel competent by providing developmentally appropriate challenges that intrigue him rather than frustrate him.

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