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Social Emotional

Social emotional health is a child’s growing ability to:

  • Form strong relationships with others
  • Express and manage emotions
  • Explore the world around them and problem-solve

Why is social emotional health so important?

Social and emotional skills are as important as ABCs and 1, 2, 3s. Babies need relationships with loving adults to learn these skills. Loving relationships also help babies' brains to grow and develop.


When children have this healthy foundation, they are more likely to:

  • make friends
  • follow directions
  • control emotions
  • solve problems 
  • focus on tasks

Children who do not have these social and emotional skills are less prepared to learn in school.

They are more likely to:

  • have trouble making friends
  • have behavior problems like biting, hitting, using unkind words or bullying
  • have difficulty learning
  • drop out of school

Early social emotional problems have been linked to later mental and physical problems like depression, and obesity.

Challenging Experiences

Challenging experiences occur in the lives of all children.

Some of these experiences might challenge a child’s ability to see the world as a safe and predictable place:

  • New caregiver, school or program
  • Family financial worries
  • Exposure to domestic or community violence
  • Loss of family member, friend or pet
  • New sibling
  • Hospitalization
  • Divorce
  • Moving
  • Family illness
  • Multiple caregivers

Causes for Concern

Indicators that a child may be struggling to make sense of challenging or traumatic experiences include:

  • Hurting self or others
  • Excessive screaming
  • Destroying property
  • Difficulty calming self
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Toileting issues
  • Silent and/or withdrawn
  • Running away
  • Difficulty participating in group experiences
  • Difficulty moving from one activity to another

What You Can Do

To help a child feel physically safe and emotionally secure, adults can:

  • Focus on nurturing relationships
  • Recognize impact of challenging experiences
  • Consider child’s perspective
  • Develop predictable routines and expectations
  • Enjoy positive moments with child
  • Participate in back-and-forth interactions
  • Teach problem solving skills
  • Acknowledge feelings, efforts and progress
  • Avoid using shame or humiliation
  • Practice how to cope with strong feelings
  • Find ways to stay calm in times of stress
  • Reach out for help