As the year winds down and the holiday season is among us, I was thinking about family traditions and what lessons I want to teach my daughter during this time. What do I want her to remember about the holidays and pass on to her own children one day? That thought spun into family traditions, and sparked this discussion on how family traditions are important for social emotional development in children.
First, what is social emotional development? Social emotional development is the child’s experience, expression, and management of emotions and the ability to establish positive and rewarding relationships with others. There are five main social emotional skills that develop typically within the first 3 years of life: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision making.
We all know that children learn through play, but how do they develop their emotions and learn to regulate them? You may notice your child becoming more emotional as they move from the infant to toddler stage. Maybe they are throwing things, hitting, crying more, or even biting. Are they just being naughty? No, as easy as it is for us to let our minds think that, this is just their way of communication. They do not have the words to express their feelings, and just like everything else they need you to teach them how to communicate their emotions and work through the tough moments appropriately.
So how do we do that? There are three main ways to support your child’s social emotional development. First, start by creating a secure safe home where they can be free to express themselves and feel your unconditional love. Give your child praise and tell them often how much they are loved. Then, acknowledge and validate your child’s feelings and discuss how they can regulate them such as, “I see you are feeling upset, it’s okay to feel upset. I feel upset too sometimes, so let's take a breath and read a book to help our body calm down.” Lastly, give your child opportunities to play with other children their age. Teach them through role play how to interact with other children, and once they are in the moment with another child don’t be afraid to step back and watch their skills strengthen as they practice what you’ve taught them.
So how does all this correlate to the importance of creating family traditions? Well, when I think about my own family traditions I instantly get a warm sensation, a smile on my face, and an overall feeling of happiness. Why does that happen? Well my parents were successful in teaching me social emotional skills and creating family traditions that promoted the secure bond of family, feeling of being loved, trusting others, as well as promoted my own self-confidence. These are all things I wish to instill in my own children. By doing so they will be able to form long lasting bonds with family and friends, and one day create their own traditions with their family. So don’t be afraid to get a little silly and keep things fun, this is an important time for your child's development as well as memory building for you both.
Sensory classes will resume in January. Until then I encourage you to enjoy the holiday season by celebrating your families unique traditions.