How can parents build social-emotional skills in their child amid Covid?
- The pandemic has undoubtedly affected the social and emotional lives of children, as they have fewer chances for social interactions with their peers, reducing their opportunity to learn emotional regulation and other important skills
The pandemic has undoubtedly affected the social and emotional lives of children, as they have fewer chances for social interactions with their peers, reducing their opportunity to learn emotional regulation and other important skills. What exactly are social-emotional skills, and how can parents foster their development in this unusual time?
Carmen Ip, Associate Therapist at Jadis Blurton Family Development Center (BFDC), first defines social and emotional development as the “understanding, learning, and recognising of your own emotions and how they relate to others,” which also involves being able to cope with others’ expectations and demands that may be in conflict with our own needs. Ben Keeling, Principal at Shrewsbury International School Hong Kong, adds how social-emotional development is “the way in which children read, respond to, and regulate their own feelings and the feelings of others.”
Proper social-emotional development in the early years of childhood is essential, as it has a long-term impact on people’s adult lives and relationships. In fact, Keeling mentions that it is “among the most important lessons” a child can learn, as these skills are very difficult to instill if they are not taught in those essential years.
In terms of temper tantrums, the panellists agree the worst thing a parent can do is match the child’s energy and become overly upset as well. De-escalation tactics can be used to calm down the situation, but Keeling suggests not to worry too much about occasional bad behaviour, as “tantrums are just a part of growing up, it’s normal, and necessary in order for [children] to reflect back on their behaviour.”
According to Ip, the most important thing to focus on when helping your children develop their social-emotional skills is giving them ways to explain what they’re feeling, allowing them to better understand their emotions. It is also helpful to allow your children to see your own emotions as a parent and how you regulate them—this way, they can learn through observation.
The panellists note during the pandemic especially, it is important to spend time with your children in which you are truly present emotionally and invested in a shared activity. During Covid-19, parents should consider challenging their traditional roles and become a playmate in addition to a caretaker, providing children with the social interaction and opportunities they need to regulate themselves emotionally. Overall, Keeling says, “parents need to be human.”