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    • Reflect on your own social-emotional development.
    • Describe and define social-emotional development.
    • Discuss how common social skills promote development and learning in school-age learning. 





    Consider all the different people you have relationships with. At home, your relationships might include your spouse, parents, children or other family members, and friends. You also have relationships with the people you see at work: other staff members, families, and children in your program. There’s also the person who delivers your mail, your doctor, and your neighbors. Relationships are what make up the foundation of social-emotional health. How important are your relationships to your daily life and well-being? What would it be like without those relationships?

    Without relationships, it would be difficult to achieve a sense of belonging or acceptance or to feel like you are part of a community. Relationships are at the foundation of social-emotional health. School-age children have spent the first years of their lives creating deep bonds within their families and are ready to begin developing strong relationships and bonds with their peers, teachers, and other individuals.

    What is Social-Emotional Development?

    Children begin developing social-emotional skills at birth. Infants begin turning their heads toward their caregivers’ voices, looking toward their caregivers and cooing, and crying to let their caregivers know they need something. Their emotional signals, such as smiling, crying, or demonstrating interest and attention, strongly influence the behaviors of others. Similarly, the emotional reactions of others affect children’s social behaviors. As children mature and develop, their social-emotional skills become less centered on having their own needs met by their caregivers and more centered on participating in routines and enjoying experiences with friends and caregivers.

    The early-childhood years are a critical time for the formation of positive feelings toward oneself, others, and the larger world. When children are encouraged, nurtured and accepted by adults and peers, they are more likely to be well-adjusted. On the contrary, children who are neglected, rejected, or abused are at risk for social and mental health challenges.

    Children develop social-emotional skills in the context of their relationships with their primary caregivers, families, and cultures. Considering how diverse our society is, you can imagine that this diversity is also expressed in how families from different cultures teach children how to manage emotions, socialize, and engage with others. For example, in some cultures, children are taught to avoid eye contact when communicating with others. For other cultures, eye contact is an essential component of social interaction. Culture also affects parenting practices and ways individuals deal with emotions, including handling stress and coping with adversity.

    Family priorities affect social-emotional competence. For example, some families might place a high value on talking about emotions and expressing them as they occur, whereas other families may value doing the opposite. As a school-age staff member, you need to be sensitive and respectful of individual differences in social-emotional development when engaging with children in your care and their families.

    According to the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL), social and emotional development (also called social-emotional learning) consists of the following five core components:


    This is the ability to accurately recognize one’s emotions, thoughts and their influence on behavior. This includes accurately assessing one’s strengths and limitations and possessing a well-grounded sense of confidence and optimism.

    Examples of questions someone who is self-aware may ask:

    • What are my thoughts and feelings?
    • What causes those thoughts and feelings?
    • How can I express my thoughts and feelings respectfully?


    This is the ability to regulate one’s emotions, thoughts and behaviors effectively in different situations. This includes managing stress, controlling impulses, motivating oneself, and setting and working toward achieving personal and academic goals.

    Examples of questions someone who has good self-management may ask:

    • What different responses can I have to an event?
    • How can I respond to an event as constructively as possible?

    Social awareness:

    This is the ability to take the perspective of and empathize with others from diverse backgrounds and cultures, to understand social and ethical norms for behavior, and to recognize family, school and community resources and supports.

    Examples of questions someone who has good social awareness may ask:

    • How can I better understand other people’s thoughts and feelings?
    • How can I better understand why people feel and think the way they do?

    Relationship skills:

    This is the ability to establish and maintain healthy and rewarding relationships with diverse individuals and groups. This includes communicating clearly, listening actively, cooperating, resisting inappropriate social pressure, negotiating conflict constructively, and seeking and offering help when needed.

    Examples of questions someone who has good relationships skills may ask:

    • How can I adjust my actions so that my interactions with different people turn out well?
    • How can I communicate my expectations to other people?
    • How can I communicate with other people to understand and manage their expectations of me?

    Responsible decision-making:

    This is the ability to make constructive and respectful choices about personal behavior and social interactions based on consideration of ethical standards, safety concerns, social norms, the realistic evaluation of consequences of various actions, and the well-being of self and others.

    Examples of questions someone who is a responsible decision-maker may ask:

    • What consequences will my actions have on myself and others?
    • How do my choices align with my values?
    • How can I solve problems effectively?

    What Does Social-Emotional Development Look Like In School-Age Children?

    School-age children are working hard to develop their social-emotional skills. They are learning the importance of expressing and managing their feelings. They will begin to understand their varied emotions, how to handle them, and how they apply to different experiences and situations. School-age children are also learning the value in positive healthy relationships. They are learning how to make and keep friends and how to develop relationships with mentors, teachers and other adults in their lives. For school-age children, strong emphasis is put on cultivating common social skills.

    School-Age Social Skills

    Social skills pertain to the way we interact and communicate with others. They might also be called “social rules,” because many times, these skills are unspoken rules we use when interacting with others. When children develop common social skills, they are more likely to experience success in school and later in life. The list below will provide you with common social skills.


    • Following instructions
    • Accepting Criticism
    • Accepting "No" for an answer
    • Asking for help
    • Asking for permission
    • Staying on task and ignoring distractions
    • Making a good choice
    • Solving problems

    Social Interactions

    • Greeting others
    • Seeking another’s attention
    • Disagreeing appropriately
    • Apologizing
    • Giving and accepting compliments
    • Having a conversation
    • Sharing with others
    • Working with others
    • Using appropriate voice tone
    • Accepting others
    • Showing respect
    • Showing appreciation

    Emotions Management

    • Avoiding a fight or conflict
    • Using an anger control strategy
    • Solving problems
    • Accepting failures
    • Coping with the pressures of others’ expectations



    Social-Emotional Development: An Introduction

    Watch this video to learn about the importance of social-emotional development for children’s lives.


    As a school-age staff member, there will be a variety of opportunities for you to promote social-emotional development in school-age children, such as:

    • Model social skills, relationship building techniques, and treating others with respect.
    • Plan activities and experiences that help children develop their social skills, feeling of empathy, respect for others, and sense of achievement.
    • Create a learning environment that acts as a community and allows children to feel that they belong to a group.
    • Use supervision strategies, positive interactions, modeling and social-emotional teaching strategies to prevent and address bullying.

    Throughout this course on social-emotional development, there will be many references to being a positive role model for children. As a school-age staff member, children will look to you for cues on how to interact with others. Therefore, you should:

    • Always maintain a positive and respectful demeanor when interacting with children and adults.
    • Express your emotions in a positive way. Stay calm when under pressure and keep your emotions regulated.
    • Be aware of your body language and keep it positive.
    • Communicate regularly with all children and staff in your program.

    Completing this Course

    For more information on what to expect in this course, the Social & Emotional Development Competency Reflection, and a list of the accompanying Learn, Explore and Apply resources and activities offered throughout the lessons, visit the School-Age Social & Emotional Development Course Guide

    Please note the References & Resources section at the end of each lesson outlines reference sources and resources to find additional information on the topics covered. As you complete lessons, you are not expected to review all the online references available. However, you are welcome to explore the resources further if you have interest, or at the request of your trainer, coach, or administrator.



    As a school-age staff member, you will need to understand your own social-emotional development so that you can help promote it in children. Download and print the Explore: My Social-Emotional Development form. Share your finished work with your trainer, coach, or supervisor.



    As a school-age staff member, you will need to plan activities to help promote children’s social-emotional skills. Look through some of the ideas developed by the University of Illinois Extension for activities that can help school-age children build strong emotional competence. Look through the attachments, Emotional Intelligence for Children ages 8-10 and Emotional Intelligence for Pre-teens ages 11-12. Pick out an activity you would like to try in your program and discuss how you would implement this activity with your trainer, coach, or supervisor.


    EmpathyThe ability to understand and share feelings of another person
    Social-emotional developmentA child’s ability to form secure relationships, identify, experience and regulate emotions, and explore the environment and learn
    Social SkillsThe skills necessary to communicate and interact with others in a way that is acceptable to one’s environment




    Which of the following are common social skills of school-age children?


    A colleague asks for ideas to nurture the social-emotional development of school-age children. What do you say?


    True or False? School-age children are beginning to understand their emotions and how to handle them.

    References & Resources

    ACT for Youth: Center of Excellence. Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) Toolkit. Retreived from:

    American Academy of Pediatrics. (2015). Healthy Children: Ages & Stages: Gradeschool. Retrieved from

    American Academy of Pediatrics. (2004). Caring for your School-Age Child: Ages 5-12. Schor, E. L., Ed. New York: Bantam.

    Berk, L. E. (2013). Child development (9th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education Inc.

    Council on Accreditation Standards for Child and Youth Development Programs. Retrieved from

    Denham, S. A., & Brown, C. (2010). “Plays nice with others”: social-emotional learning and academic success . Early Education and Development, 21, 652-680.

    National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (2012). Early Childhood Generalist Standards for teachers of ages 3-8 (3rd ed.). Arlington, VA: National Board for Professional Teaching Standards.

    Trawick-Smith, J. W. (2014). Early Childhood Development: A Multicultural Perspective (6th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education Inc.