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Nurturing personal, social and emotional development

Kathy Brodie suggests easy and effective ways to nurture your children’s personal, social and emotional development…

Children’s personal, social and emotional developments are closely intertwined, with each area having a direct effect on the others. Personal development is about having a sense of self and a sense of others. Self-esteem and self-confidence are different, though closely related, aspects of a sense of self: self-esteem is how much a child values him or herself, whereas self-confidence is being sure of one’s own abilities. Supporting self-confidence is about more than simply praising children. In fact, over-praise has been shown to be detrimental for children (see Brummelman et al, ‘That’s not just beautiful – that’s incredibly beautiful!’ in Psychological Science Vol. 25, 2014). As children grow and develop, they begin to get a sense of ‘others’, i.e. that others have different feelings, motivations and thoughts to themselves

Social development is the development of interactions with other children and adults, including different types of communication and learning. The great benefits of having friends and being friends with others should not be underestimated, but you should also be aware that ‘making’ children be friends might be counterproductive.

Emotional development is supported by the key person role and the way that the key person gives a feeling of emotional stability to her or his children. Allowing children to take risks is an important way of helping them to understand how, sometimes, they may need to try several times before being able to master a skill.

1. Coping mechanisms

Resilience is the ability to cope with life’s ups and downs. This is a skill that children need to learn and practice, and is closely related to positive emotional wellbeing. You can build resilience by allowing children to take some risks. Close relationships with others and supporting a positive selfimage both help to increase children’s resilience, too.

2. The feel-good factor

Self-esteem is how children feel about themselves, and is associated with selfdisposition. You can help to raise self-esteem by providing opportunities for children to master skills, for example, challenging them to do slightly harder tasks, supporting them where necessary, but at a level that you think they will be able to achieve.

3. Encouraging words

Self-confidence is either nurtured or undermined by the people around children and affects how children view themselves through the actions of others. It is important to use specific encouragement, for example, rather than saying, “That’s a nice picture” it is better to say, “I really like the way you have used colours and shapes in this picture.” You can nurture self-confidence by supporting children in their attempts, and ensuring they aren’t belittled if anything goes wrong, but that they are encouraged to try again.

4. My background

Celebrating children’s unique and varied cultures helps them to build a sense of pride in themselves, their family and their society. This could be through festivals and celebrations, or by including cultural artefacts in a home corner, outdoors or other areas of continuous provision.

5. Social interactions

Social development can be considered in three social spheres: family, community and the wider social culture. Family life is likely to have the most influence on children’s social development, for example, the number of siblings in the family or whether there is a large extended family. The community will have a lesser, though still significant effect on social development, for example, the number and variety of other people that the children interact with – such as the bus driver. Each interaction helps social development, so it is desirable to have a wide range of social interactions.

6. Let’s talk about it

It is important that you allow children to discuss their emotions, and you can help them to do this by giving them the vocabulary to describe how they are feeling. Remember to regularly and sensitively encourage children to discuss their emotions, both positive and negative. This helps them to both make sense of how they are feeling and learn to communicate this effectively to you. It may also help some children to regulate their emotions and build up their resilience.

7. Thinking of others

Children can start to learn empathy and caring for others by considering how others may be feeling. It is valuable to encourage children to have empathy, so they can appreciate how their actions may affect others, as well as being able to understand how people may have different responses. You can encourage this by discussing with children the motivations and actions of others, whether this is with other children at your setting, characters in a story or using an empathy doll.

8. Set an example

Being a good role model, with both children and other adults, helps to show children the desired behaviour and development whilst at your setting. For example, discussing how you are feeling and why, showing children how to be selfconfident and demonstrating your friendships with others will help children to understand and emulate these behaviours.


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