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    • Describe the components of assessing social-emotional development in school-age children.
    • Discuss the role adults play in supporting the social-emotional skills of scholl-age children.
    • Identify typical social-emotional milestones in school-age children.




    Think about how you use social skills every day. When you wait your turn to comment in a staff meeting, receive constructive criticism from your supervisor, apologize, spend time with a friend or accept others’ differences, you are using the social skills you learned as a child. You also use your social skills adjusting to new situations and getting to know new people. This can occur when you begin a new job or take a class by yourself. This can be difficult for many people, especially if transitions and changes are hard to accept. As a school-age staff member, it is important that you find ways to interact with other adults so that children can observe your use of social skills. When you interact with other staff members, family members or other adults, be sure to always model the skills you are teaching the children in your program.

    Young children tend to focus on themselves and the world around them. They are working hard to learn and discover how their environment can help them learn, develop, and imagine. They are focused on how they can make the world around them translate and relate to themselves. As children grow, they are expected to develop a set of skills that allow them to interact more broadly. To do this, children must go outside of their own world and take other people’s emotions, cultures, and perspectives into consideration.


    Let's look at school-age children's social-emotional development. The chart below provides an overview of the social-emotional developmental milestones in school-age children from the book What Teachers Need to Know about Social and emotional Development by Ros Leyden and Erin Shale:

    Typical Social-Emotional Development of School-Age Children

    Children Ages 5 to 12 Years Old
    5- to 7-Year-Olds
    • Develop greater empathy
    • Establish and maintain positive relationships and friendships
    • Start developing a sense of morality
    • Control impulsive behavior
    • Identify and manage emotions
    • Form a positive self-concept and self-esteem (identity formation has begun)
    • Become resilient
    • Begin to function more independently (from looking after personal possessions to making decision without needing constant support)
    • Form opinions about moral values and learn right and wrong
    • Be able to express an opinion and negotiate
    • Begin understanding different viewpoints
    • Start making more sense of “who I am” ("Who am I like? Who likes me?)
    • Develop a sense of family history (identity)
    • Tackle questions about death
    • Accept that parents are not all powerful
    8- and 9-Year-Olds
    • Fit in and are accepted by peers (preoccupied with comparisons—Do I fit in?)
    • Have a best friend
    • Strengthen cooperative skills
    • Adjust to a sexually developing body and handle the agonies of feeling awkward and self-conscious (What will I look like? Do I look normal?)
    • Continue refining a sense of self (fluid and constantly changing)
    • Work out values and beliefs and often passionately adopt an ethical stance
    • Establish independence and individuality (intensely private, wanting alone time, displays of noncompliance at school and home)
    10- and 11-Year-Olds
    • Behave appropriately in a variety of social situations
    • Refine communication skills
    • Resolve interpersonal conflicts and understand the difference between passive, assertive and aggressive responses
    • Become more independent and responsible for actions
    • Value and respect rules and authority
    • Know how to act appropriately and safely in cyber social world
    • Manage emotional changes accompanying puberty (torn between needing the security of the familiar and craving the unknown)
    • Develop more positive self-esteem and resilience by building strengths and accepting limitations
    • Acknowledge “who I am” through an optimistic lens
    12 Years and Onward
    • Establish independence
    • Adjust to a larger social world with greater expectations and demands
    • Overcome the awkward and clumsy stage
    • Find acceptance within a peer group
    • Becoming more self-assured and able to say no
    • Move further away from family and closer to friends for support
    • Handle issues and growing concerns about sexuality and relationships
    • Manage confusing and unexpected feelings, such as anger and rebellion
    • Move toward self-acceptance

    School-Age Children and Social-Emotional Development

    As a school-age staff member, part of your role is to observe and assess the children in your care. You will accomplish this using a variety of developmental guidelines to support children and their families. Because having a solid foundation of social-emotional development is crucial for a child’s success in school and in life, it is important to observe children in their learning environment.

    When assessing a child’s social-emotional development, we will look at a variety of components such as:

    The Ability to Establish and Maintain Relationships

    Relationships are the core of social-emotional development. A child’s ability to establish and keep relationships is a very important aspect of their development. This is primarily seen in a child’s ability to make and keep friends. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, friendships allow children to “broaden their horizons beyond the family unit, begin to experience the outside world, form a self-image, and develop a social support system.” Because relationships are so vital to a child’s social-emotional development, a lesson will be dedicated to the topic later in this course.

    The Ability to Manage Emotions

    As children grow, they learn how to regulate their emotions and feelings. The emotional surges we see in young children, such as crying when separating from their family or hitting when they become frustrated, will begin to lessen as the children age. School-age children will begin to have a better understanding of what emotions are and will be able to discuss how they are feeling. Feeling of sympathy and empathy for others will also begin to develop.

    The Ability to Cope with Stress

    As adults, we know that stress can come from a variety of circumstances and can be overwhelming if we don’t find a way to cope with it. You might cope with stress by going for a walk, spending some time with friends, exercising, or taking some time for your favorite hobby. Other ways adults cope with stress are deep breathing, meditation exercises, or visiting a therapist or counselor. As adults, we know when a situation is causing too much stress and can decide to use one of these methods to help alleviate the stressor. School-age children are just learning how to identify and deal with stress in their lives. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the following are the most common circumstances that cause school-age children to worry:

    Bucket of Stress

    • Feeling sick
    • Having nothing to do
    • Not having enough money
    • Feeling pressure to get good grades
    • Feeling left out of a group of peers
    • Not spending enough time with parents
    • Not having homework done
    • Not being good enough at sports
    • Not being able to dress as desired
    • Experiencing body changes
    • Being late for school
    • Being smaller than other children of the same age
    • Having parents argue in front of them
    • Not getting along with teachers
    • Being overweight or bigger than other children of the same age
    • Moving
    • Changing schools
    • Arguing with parents about rules in the family
    • Adjusting to parents separating or divorcing
    • Being pressured to try something they didn’t really want to (e.g., smoking)

    Stressed out girl

    School-age children are learning how to recognize what causes stress and how it affects their behavior. Some children may still openly act out their feelings, whereas others will keep their stress to themselves. We want children to learn how to manage their stress in a healthy and positive way. Keeping the lines of communication open with families will help you be on alert if a child may be experiencing a stressful situation at home or at school. As a school-age staff member, it is important to watch for signs that a child may be overloaded with stress so that you can help them cope with it in a healthy way. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, common signs of stress overload are when a child:

    • Develops physical symptoms such as headaches or stomach pains
    • Appears restless, tired and agitated
    • Appears depressed and is uncommunicative about emotions
    • Becomes irritable, negative, and shows little excitement or pleasure in activities
    • Seems less interested in an activity that was once extremely important
    • Grades at school begin to fall
    • Has less interest than usual in attending classes and doing homework
    • Exhibits antisocial behavior such as lying and stealing, forgets or refuses to do chores/tasks and seems much more dependent on family members or teachers than in the past


    Social Emotional Development

    Watch this video to learn about social-emotional development across the school-age years.


    As a school-age staff member, you will be supporting children and their social-emotional development. You can do this by:

    • Providing opportunities for children to identify and understand their feelings and emotions and discuss them with others
    • Encouraging critical thinking, problem solving, and supervised risk taking
    • Working hard to create an environment that is structured, safe, and allows children to learn and discover
    • Demonstrating respect for others
    • Providing an environment that recognizes, embraces, and celebrates diversity
    • Providing an environment that is nurturing and inclusive to children with special needs
    • Acknowledging the contributions of all children to the community
    • Encouraging children and youth to experiment with a variety of activities, materials, and experiences to discover talents and preferences



    Observing school-age children in the learning environment is the best way to see which children are developing strong social-emotional skills and which ones may need help. Download and print the Observing Social-Emotional Skills form. Share your finished work with your  trainer, coach, or supervisor.



    How do you adapt your behavior to reflect values or norms related to a particular environment or situation? Children may have a difficult time learning this skill, and in order to support their learning it is important to reflect on how you use this skill in your own life. Download and print the Social Situations form. Share your finished work with your trainer, coach, or supervisor. 




    Which of the following is a typical social-emotional milestone in five- to seven-year-olds?


    A parent asks what traits you consider when evaluating a school-age child’s social emotional development. What do you say?


    Finish this statement: As a school-age staff member, you can support children’s social-emotional development by…

    References & Resources

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

    Dunlap, G., & Powell, D. (2009). Promoting Social Behavior of Young Children in Group Settings: A Summary of Research. Roadmap to Effective Intervention Practices #3. Tampa, Florida: University of South Florida, Technical Assistance Center on Social Emotional Intervention for Young Children.

    Durlak, J. A., & Weissberg, R. P. (2013). Afterschool programs that follow evidence-based practices to promote social and emotional development are effective. In T. K. Peterson (Ed.), Expanding minds and opportunities: Leveraging the power of afterschool and summer learning for student success (pp. 194-198). Collaborative Communications Group, Washington, D.C. Retrieved from

    National Association for the Education of Young Children. (2012). Teachers’ Lounge: Determining if behavior is bullying. Teaching Young Children, 5(5), 34.

    Sandall, S. R., & Schwartz, I. S. Helping Children with Challenging Behaviors Succeed in the Classroom. Excerpt from from S.R. Sandall & I.S. Schwartz with G.E. Joseph, H.-Y. Chou, E.M. Horn, J. Lieber, S.L. Odom, & R. Wolery, Building Blocks for Teaching Preschoolers with Special Needs (Baltimore, MD: Paul H. Brookes, 2002), 49–50.

    Sandall, S., Hemmeter, M., Smith, B., & McLean, M. (Eds.) (2005). DEC Recommended Practices: A Comprehensive Guide for Practical Application. Longmont, CO: Sopris West Publishing.

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