Category Archives: Social & Emotional

Communicating in a way that fosters your child’s socio-emotional skills

As the American Academy of Pediatrics assesses, we know that at around 2 and 4 years old, preschoolers are right in the center of an important improvement in their communication skills. In this article, we’re going to look at communication beyond its benefits for your child’s vocabulary, and focus instead on the important role that it plays in your kid’s social and emotional development.

How you communicate with your son will set the base for how he communicates with himself. Because your child is still very young, communicating can be tricky, especially around situations where he is frustrated and you’re getting angry, like when discussing about a conflictive behavior. It’s precisely in those situations where it is crucial for you to model how problems can be solved by talking. If you practice positive communication in your family, your child will take in the problem solving, emotion expression and relationship building skills you show him. After all, the family is the first place where we all get to practice socio-emotional skills!

The Early Childhood Development Department of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln gives some tips on how to communicate with your child in a way that fosters understanding and emotional development:
• Before speaking, know what you want to say. Kids can easily get overwhelmed or side-tracked when they are given too much information. It’s better to let them be part of the conversation by handing them some simple information and then ask questions to clarify, instead of having them listening to a monologue that’s beyond their attention span.
• Be aware of your emotions. Sometimes kids respond in unexpected ways even when we think we’re being very clear. This might be because the words they hear are different from the emotion they see. To avoid giving mixed signals, don’t ignore your emotions and, if you’re getting very frustrated or tired, take a moment to calm down before continuing the conversation.
• Be an active listener. Focus on the speaker, show your interest with your body language and try to listen with your heart as well as with your ears.
• Try to choose “I” messages instead of “you” messages when attempting to change a problematic behavior.

If you want to read more about positive communication and how to try it with your family, you can read the 2-pages article by Myrna DuBois “Open the door to good communication” by following this link:

Communicating with your preschooler in a nurturing way

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children go through many important communication milestones between their 36 and 48 months of age. This means that what your child can understand and the complexity with which she can express and communicate with you increases greatly around this age. Communication is very important not only for language development, but for your kid’s social and emotional skills. Positive and effective communication sets the base with which to build and mend relationships.

According to the recommendations of the Early Childhood Development Department of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, parents need to practice positive communication with their young children. They emphasize that developing children benefit greatly from a communication that is open, respectful, honest, straight-forward and kind, no matter the topic at hand.

Here are a couple of practical tips from The Big Book of Parenting, by Doctor in Education Michele Borba:
• Understand the “no” as a way of asserting newly discovered independence. Toddlers live in a world full of big people, feel things they don’t know how to manage, and want to express feelings and ideas without having the language skills to do so, so it’s natural that they crave for some control at times and act defiantly. Try not to take it personally and model the appropriate way of interacting. Explain that it’s not nice to speak rudely and try integrating some choices into their daily routines.
• Don’t expect your daughter to internalize social graces just yet, model behavior instead. Three and four-year-olds are still very young to master their impulses. So, if you find yourself mortified because your little girl is talking very loudly at the movies, know that this is completely normal and take advantage of your child’s inner copycat by whispering “use your quiet voice, like this”. You can even practice this and other alternative behaviors at home, which will make it easier to do so in the library the next time you go there.
• Make talking fun instead of overwhelming. Some kids can get frustrated or inhibited when they’re given many instructions or corrections. So, try not to draw attention to the mistakes she might be making, and simply repeat the words in a clear way when you next have the chance.

If you are interested on more tips about communicating with your young children, you can check out this one-pager by the University of Nebraska:

Making new foods appealing to my preschooler

Because young kid’s senses, personality and cognition are still developing, it’s normal for them to have somewhat rigid food-preferences regarding texture and flavor, especially when a new food is just being introduced. Therefore, it is necessary to take their developmental stage into account when exposing them to new foods, so that the experience can be positive and build their emotional, verbal and physical skills as well.

With this challenge in mind, here are some ideas on how to successfully introduce new foods into your daughter’s diet:
• Read together a book that features a new food and talk about its characteristics before getting to experience it in real life.
• Make sure that your child has a good posture while eating, so that she is not uncomfortable or too occupied trying to stay upright.
• Let your child help in the preparation of the food. Cooking together provides interesting and positive experiences around food, and it has been proven that it boosts the child’s self-confidence, while also encouraging them to try their creation.
• Take into account the food temperature and try to make sure its pleasantly warm.
• Monkey see, monkey do. Model how trying this new food is safe and fun to do.
• Consider the food’s texture, as some kids will turn down stringy of lumpy foods, or those that need lots of chewing.
• Make the food presentation interesting. This can be easily done by serving different colors or shapes of foods, like brightly colored veggies, fruit wedges, square chunks, triangle-shaped sandwiches, etc.
• Introduce one new food at a time, accompanied with healthy and familiar foods to avoid overwhelming your kid. Baby steps go a long way in the long run.

Teaching my kid how to get dressed

Getting a preschooler dressed can be a cause for morning stress for many parents. You might be in a hurry and your child won’t put on his coat without making a tantrum, or he has decided to wear tree pairs of socks today or has buttoned his clothes wrongly and feels betrayed by you when correcting the situation. You might think that the only way around this is dressing your child yourself, because if it’s still such a struggle, it might be too early to be working on self-care skills like dressing.

In fact, learning to dress independently is an important skill that your child can start to tackle between 36 and 48 months old. Meeting challenges like pulling clothes off, opening large zippers, putting on shoes or buttoning and unbuttoning large buttons actually helps your child build many new skills. For example, he develops multiple different areas, like fine and gross motor skills when mastering necessary hand movements, or his memory when recalling steps and their order when putting clothes on and off. He also works on his attention span and learns through experience about shapes and colors, not to mention the self-awareness, the sense of achievement and the confidence that is built by learning to get dressed.

Here are some tips for you to help your kid learn how to get dressed:
• Be supportive and acknowledge progress. If you make getting dressed a positive experience, your child will be more likely to cooperate with you.
• Teach undressing first, as it takes less coordination.
• Try to practice getting dressed when the pair of you are not in a hurry and set a realistic allotted time for dressing.
• Let your child choose clothes from a couple of weather-appropriate options and talk about the weather and how its related to the clothes you choose.
• Explain the difference between clean and dirty clothes and how you put them in different places.

My little one wants to choose what to wear

If you are raising a preschooler, chances are your kid has started to insist on going to school dressed as a pirate or wearing dance clothes. Beyond how cute or unpractical these fashion statements might be, between two and four years of age, children start to express a need for independence and autonomy that is usually exteriorized around bath and dressing-time.

Having a say in what to wear and choosing clothes is a safe form of self-expression, and your daughter’s way of showing you how much she has grown, and all the wonderful things she is now capable of doing. Because this expression of autonomy and self-care is important to a child’s social and emotional development, here are some tips on how to allow liberty in the wardrobe, and avoid power-struggles with a preschooler that sees no wrong in going outside to build a snowman dressed like Aladdin.

• If you have an important event to attend to with your child, select a couple of outfits your preschooler can choose from. This way she can pick out what to wear for the day, while, at the same time, you make sure that the clothes are appropriate for the weather and the occasion.
• Make sure the clothes buttons and zippers aren’t overly challenging for your little one’s hands to avoid overwhelming her. Encourage independent dressing, but nonetheless offer some help with small zippers, tricky buttons or shoe-laces to keep your child interested and not so frustrated that she won’t want to try it again.
• Let your little girl have a say in shopping for her clothes. Having your kid be invested in the clothes from the very beginning can make it easier to engage in getting dressed in them. For little kids, you can look for very comfortable clothes that include a figure or character your child loves.

Nurturing honesty in preschoolers

We have all been there. You suddenly hear a loud noise, turn your head, see a knocked-over box of toys scattered all across the room like a mined field and then you hear the feared lie coming out of your preschooler: “It wasn’t me!”.

Don’t worry, although witnessing your kid lie for the first time can be unsettling, it’s important to know that this is a completely normal behavior in small kids. They are still learning the social and emotional skills that allow older kids to know that honesty is the best policy.

Your kid might have indulged in a white lie for many reasons. It might be to avoid the consequences of a naughty action, because of her faulty memory-recalling, to avoid disappointing you when an accident happens or because distinguishing reality from fantasy is still challenging at her age. Because these preschooler lies aren’t malicious, they shouldn’t be a cause for either concern nor punishment. Your daughter will soon outgrow the need to lie, especially if you surround her with honesty and trust.

Meanwhile, you can nurture the development of honesty in your child by making it easy for her to tell you the truth. Show appreciation for her honesty, helping her remember the whole truth of a story and, above all, trust your kid and model truthfulness.

Can my child start eating independently and tackle new milestones?

Between the excitement of achieving new milestones and the fear of messy floors and tables in the nearby future, figuring out when your child is ready to start eating by himself can seem complicated. In this article, we’ll talk about some of the independent feeding skills and table milestones that are usually met between 3 and 4 years of age.

According to doctor Tiffany Hays, director of Pediatric Nutrition at Johns Hopkins Children’s Center, allowing your kid to be independent early on during mealtimes is crucial because it will not only foster a sense of autonomy, but also make it easier for your kid to respond to his natural hunger and fullness cues. Remember that some spills and accidents will inevitably happen, although with decreasing frequency, but you can safely start working toward the following skills with your 36 to 48-month-old:
• Pour liquids from a pitcher using a cup.
• Use the fingers and hand to hold a fork, apply the correct amount of pressure to pierce and pick up soft foods with it and accurately direct it into the mouth.
• Wipe mouth with a napkin when prompted or reminded to do so.
• Take notice to swallow the food before taking another bite.
• Pour and scoop with minimal spilling.
• Open different kinds of food containers, like jars, food bags, juice bottles with a straw, etc.
• Drink from a small open cup using only one hand.

If you want to read more about independent feeding skills for your toddler, you can check out this link:

Helping my toddler to solve conflicts with his friends

It’s completely normal for toddlers to sometimes get overwhelmed and as a parent you’ve surely witnessed how interacting with playmates or making new friends can, at times, seem as an unsurmountable challenge. Don’t worry, occasional conflict between young kids is normal, and a necessary component for your kid’s socio-emotional development. When this happens, you have the opportunity to teach your kid about conflict-solving.

Following the work of psychologist Kelly Tu from the Department of Human Development and Family Studies of Auburn University, here are some tips on how to help your young child manage conflict with his peers:
• Be a positive role model of conflict-solving.
• Encourage cooperation. Suggest using words instead of aggression to deal with conflict.
• Propose sharing. If the popularity of a single toy among playmates is proving problematic, remind your child that when two kids share a toy, they each get an equal turn playing with it. You can also be in charge on timing the turns if you see the need.
• Reformulate. If your child is crying or is overwhelmed with an emotion, ask him to restate the problem in a way that opens up possible solutions. Ex. “She won’t give me the purple crayon” can be reformulated by you as “So we have two artists, but only one purple crayon”.
• Teach alternative solutions. If sharing is too challenging for your child’s developmental stage right now, suggest finding another activity or toy to play with instead. Acknowledging the situation and then proposing an alternative is very useful to manage toddler-conflict.
• Help him see the situation from the other person’s point of view. This strategy can be very useful for discouraging aggressive behavior, because you foster empathy.
• Give praise. Supporting and encouraging positive solutions will reinforce this behavior. Let your son know that solving conflict is valuable to you, that it feels good and that you recognize his efforts.
• Practice makes perfect. Make sure you give your child plenty of opportunity to spend time with other kids and playmates.

Tips on how to foster good parent-child communication

Research done by academics Almudena Sevilla, of the University of London, and Cristina Borra, of the University of Seville, has shown that parents spend less than 40 minutes a day engaging in conversation with their child. And that is not enough!

Following Michigan State University Extension advise, as well as recommendations featured in the book What to expect: The toddler years, here we offer you some tips on how to make communication a central part of your relationship with your young girl.

• Have an early jumpstart into it! Even if your child’s verbal skills are still limited, laying a good base for dialogue with her is still very important.
• Be a good listener. This might be the best communication advise we can give. Be patient if your child is taking her time to go into the details of a story or to express an idea, and try not to jump too quickly into conclusions.
• Make a big deal of talking about things and set aside time for it. Try to have a good stretch of unbroken time in your daily schedule to talk with your toddler. This means staying clear of distractions such as your cellphone, televisions or reading materials for this period of time. A good idea is having a “good morning” and a “goodnight” ritual of talking before school and before bedtime. Now is a great moment to start these new family rituals.
• Help her to express things when they’re complicated. Since your child is still developing her language skills, she might experiment feelings that she can’t yet put into words, simply because her vocabulary is still growing. You can aid by providing lots of words to name both positive and negative feelings.
• Be attuned to both verbal and non-verbal communication. Try and focus completely on your toddler, and demonstrate your interest by making comments and asking questions. In that way, your child will know that what she is saying is important to you.

Helping around the house, toddler-style

All parents would love their young children to be responsible and help with some of the household chores, but you might be wondering if it’s too early to ask your 3 or 4-year-old to tackle some of the chores already. Even though it’s true that toddlers are messy and still have limited attention spans and tolerance to frustration, raising a responsible child as early as 3 years old is possible!

It’s certainly too soon to expect your kid to perform the chores an adult would, but there are lots of things your little one can help you with. In fact, many young kids enjoy imitating their parents around the house and that proves an excellent opportunity to assign him simple and safe tasks. Just make sure to keep reasonable demands. Overwhelming a toddler with responsibilities may prove counterproductive if he gets burnt out and resentful of helping out. So, this isn’t the time to pass over the duster to the next generation!

Based on the What to expect: The toddler years guide, here are some ideas of which house chores you can ask your 36-month-old to help with. Most of them will be fun to do and will exercise his cognitive and physical skills as well!
• Pick up toys and putting them away
• Mix cake batter, just make sure your kid doesn’t lick the spoon when there’s raw eggs involved
• Shape cookie balls
• Place dirty clothes in the laundry bin
• Help sort color clothes and white clothes for washing
• Unload clothes from the dryer machine after they’ve cooled down
• Set placemats on the table
Just make sure that your kid has adult supervision, and you’re all set!