Module 3 Introduction

Social and emotional development starts early. Young children develop their emotional skills in their first five years of life. This development begins with a child being aware of their feelings and emotions first. By understanding their feelings, children learn to express how they feel through words and explain why another person’s actions upset them. They also learn how to manage their own reactions without disruptive behaviors.

Social and emotional development, however, involves more than just regulating emotions. It also includes taking turns, following routines, and getting along with classmates and others.

These skills are crucial for a child’s success in school, home, and life. However, we often overlook these things or take them for granted when we think about our children’s needs.

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Learning Outcomes

By the end of this module, learners will be able to:

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Social and Emotional Skills Checklist

When a child turns 4, parents usually start to ask themselves these questions:

Parents have many questions and concerns about their child’s readiness for school. However, they usually think about their academic readiness and not their social and emotional skills.

Research shows a strong link between social and emotional skills and school success. It is a great predictor of children’s academic performance. So, we need to think about that side, too.

Children cannot learn when they struggle to follow directions, get along with their classmates and control their emotions. When children struggle with these skills, they are more likely to have trouble at school and resort to inappropriate behaviors, like screaming, crying, hitting, kicking, and biting.

We have provided a checklist for you to start thinking about the social and emotional skills your child needs to be ready for kindergarten.

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Activities for Social and Emotional Skills

Below are the activities you can do with your child to support their social and emotional skills. Click on the title to reveal the activity content.

Children need to be able to name and talk about their own emotions or feelings and the feelings and emotions of others. Children who learn to talk about their feelings are more engaged in classroom routines and activities and less likely to become frustrated, have tantrums, or act impulsively. Children learn to identify and discuss emotions through interactions or conversations with adults. To foster these conversations, we are providing a feelings chart, titled, “How are you Feeling Today?”.

When you ask young children how they feel, they will usually answer “good” or ”bad”. This chart can help give your child more precise language to express their feelings. Children often become angry and act out when they can’t communicate how they feel. We must give our children the vocabulary to describe how they feel and help them deal with those feelings. Using this chart and seeing the facial expressions can help children understand the feeling word attached to their emotions. We suggest teaching your child these words and pulling the chart out when your child is experiencing an emotion, and talking to them about which emotion they are feeling and why.

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Even though preschoolers are expanding their vocabulary and becoming more independent, they can still feel overwhelmed by strong emotions like anger, sadness, fear, and anxiety. Their brains are growing rapidly, and their emotions don’t always keep up.

Kids experience many emotions during their childhood years. Like walking and talking, emotional control is not an ability children are born with but must learn.

Emotion regulation is not just about expressing emotions in a socially appropriate manner. It involves teaching children to identify emotions, helping them identify what triggers those emotions, and teaching them to manage those emotions by themselves.

We have included a handout with tips to help your child manage negative emotions.

Ultimately, helping children manage their emotions begins by validating those emotions. Let them know whatever they are feeling is ok. Then give them positive strategies to use to deal with negative emotions. Lastly, provide an environment in which they feel safe to express themselves. Several studies have shown kids who feel safe are more likely to develop and use appropriate emotion regulation skills to deal with difficult feelings.

Just like adults, children get angry, and because of their age and inexperience, they don’t have the skills or the self-control to know how to deal with it. It is also important for children and adults to understand that anger is a natural emotion. When kids are angry, there are usually other feelings they are also experiencing. But anger is easy to see and often hides other feelings below the surface.

We have to help our children understand that it is ok to be angry, but IT IS NOT ok to hurt others, hurt yourself, or destroy property when mad. We must learn to talk about how we feel and why we are angry.

We have included a poster, Anger Rules, to help you talk about anger and help your child learn and follow the rules.

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Download the handout of tips to help your child manage negative feelings. 

More About Regulating Negative Feelings

Anger is a normal, healthy emotion. So as parents, we need to let our children understand that we all get angry and frustrated at some point. Also, as parents, we must recognize that many children struggle to understand the difference between angry feelings and aggressive behavior. So, we must help our children realize that it is ok to be angry or frustrated, but we cannot hurt others, destroy property or hurt ourselves.

If left unchecked, frustration and anger can turn into temper tantrums, defiance, and disrespect when children don’t know how to deal with these emotions. These emotions can also affect academics, friendships and relationships, and our overall mental health. Sometimes, children will say or think they are angry, but they are really embarrassed, sad, or just feeling uncomfortable. So the first step is to talk through how they feel and label their emotion.

The next step is to establish some anger rules. For example, you might say, "It is ok to be angry, but it is NOT ok to hit or kick someone." Then model and acknowledge the positive behavior you want to see. For example, you're about to park your car at Walmart, and another car wheel in and takes your spot. You might say, "That driver made me angry, but I am not going to yell at them. I'm going to remain calm and find another parking spot."

It's normal for kids to struggle with managing their anger. But, with your help, they can improve; however, if there is a red flag and you think that your child's anger issues are getting worse, it is ok and important to seek professional help.

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To get your child ready for social situations that might happen in school, we have included some comic strips that give scenarios that your child may go through. They are designed to be used as a discussion tool with your child and to help children plan and practice proper behavior in different situations. You can use these stories to help your child get ready to demonstrate the appropriate behavior when similar scenarios happen at school.

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Download a PDF of the images above.

Having family rules is important. They help create structure and help children understand what behaviors are okay and not okay. Following rules at home can help children learn to follow rules in other places. As children grow, they will be in places where they have to follow rules.

A family rule is a specific, clear statement about behaviors you expect from your child. Rules work best when there is consistency and follow-through.

Consistency means doing the same thing every time. It is normal for young children to break the rules and test limits, but as parents, we must respond to their behavior the same way no matter what is going on or how we are feeling. When we are consistent, our children know what will happen and how we will respond.

For example, every time your child hits someone, the consequence is being removed from the situation. Consistency means they have to stop playtime and are removed from the situation, whether they hit someone at home, at the grocery store, or even at a friend’s house.

Follow-through means to say what you mean and mean what you say. If you say there will be a consequence, the consequence should happen. Consistency and follow-through are for ALL behaviors: behaviors we like and behaviors we don’t like. For family rules to work well, everyone needs to know, understand, and follow the rules. Family rules will also work better if all caregivers support the rules in the same way. This is true for parents, grandparents, or any caregivers in your child’s life.

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House Rules Poster

When creating family rules, include your child in the decision-making. This will help them to develop some ownership of the rules and consequences. Here are some simple tips to use when creating family/house rules:

  1. Create the house rule.
  2. Explain the rule to everyone.
  3. All family members follow the rule.
  4. Use consequences for not following the rule.

Number three is very important. All family members should follow the family rules because our children watch us to learn how to behave. For example, if we have a rule that states, “Be kind and respectful to others,” everyone should be kind and respectful. We have provided a sample family rules poster to guide you through this activity. However, feel free to make your own involving all family members.

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  1. Paper or poster board
  2. Colored markers


Preschool-age children go through significant emotional development at a rapid pace. These skills pave the way for them to develop friendships, develop routines, and react positively in various situations. Helping your child develop positive social-emotional skills sets them up for academic success and healthy social interactions for the rest of their life.

Just like adults, children will experience emotions throughout the day – it is up to the adult to help them recognize, understand, and regulate them. Remember children develop at different rates. If your child is not where an older sibling was at this age or a child of one of your friends is at right now, THAT IS OK!! Just continue to Practice! Practice! Practice!

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Module 2 Self Check < > Module 3 Self Check

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