Early Years – Emotional Intelligence & Social Confidence – Full Description
For more information about what Emotional Intelligence and Social Confidence mean and why they are important to the wellbeing and healthy functioning of young people, please refer to our Primary School section on Emotional Intelligence & Social Confidence.
Research shows that a strong social and emotional foundation in early childhood powerfully impacts children’s later attitudes and behaviours, academic performance, career path, and adult health outcomes. Parents and caregivers can help their little ones develop social-emotional skills from the moment they are born. This refers to: the capacity for strong relationships, emotional awareness, and the ability to recognize, understand, express, and respond to feelings in socially appropriate ways.
Because of the significance of social-emotional development for children’s life outcomes, Too Small to Fail released new resources to help parents and caregivers understand and promote it. Among other findings, their report shows:
Social-emotional development plays several key roles in early childhood, from helping children to understand feelings, take turns, to building healthy relationships with others. It is the foundation upon which much other learning takes place.
Children with strong social-emotional skills do better in school because they are more focused, can cooperate with and learn from others, and exhibit fewer behavioural problems.
Healthy social-emotional development in early childhood leads to better outcomes in adulthood, such as improved health, better jobs, and more stable relationships,
Positive parent-child (or caregiver-child) interactions offer benefits to parents and caregivers, in addition to promoting young children’s social-emotional development. Quality parent-child interactions can help parents learn their little one’s tendencies and understand the feelings behind challenging behaviours, which can help them to respond calmly and consistently their child’s needs.
Things for teachers to consider in supporting the development of young people’s Emotional Intelligence and Social Confidence:
Teaching children to understand the vast variety of emotions
Take time to discuss all types of emotions. Paul Ekman, Psychologist from the University of California and the pioneer in the study of emotions, found that there were six major emotions; happiness, surprise, sadness, anger, disgust and fear. There are many other emotions such as annoyance, enthusiasm, nervousness, frustration, boredom, and impatience. Children need to understand these various emotions and learn how to read them in others. When they see their teachers and parents handle difficult situations, they learn how others cope and handle their emotions. They also learn from one another and watch their peers’ reactions in the classroom as well as on the playground.
For children in their early years, an excellent resource is Disney’s Pixar movie, Inside Out. This movie illustrates not only the six major emotions, it is also a good introduction to the brain – how we learn and store memories.
Teaching children to feel empathy
This could involve discussing the characters in a book and ask them to describe what the character may be thinking. “How did Cinderella feel after the stepsisters tore her dress apart?” “Why do you think the stepsisters did such a thing? What were they feeling?”
Creating a Predictable, Nurturing Environment
Celebrate diversity and help all children feel included. Try to encourage children to communicate in multiple ways they are comfortable with, like using their home language, body movements, gestures, and signs.
Tell children before transitions occur. Transitions are a time when many pre-schoolers struggle with inappropriate or challenging behaviour. Providing children with a “warning” before a transition occurs is especially important when they are transitioning away from doing something fun.
Tune in, observe, and use information you gather about children to guide their learning. What are they curious about? What types of activities interest them? How are they feeling? Follow these cues and use their interests to help you know how to respond to their needs and expose them to many learning opportunities.
Create consistent, predictable routines and a developmentally appropriate schedule. Children feel safe, secure, and in control when they know what to expect throughout the day.
Encourage Positive Behaviours and Use Positive Discipline Practices
Do Daily Greetings. Children and young adults need connection! One positive and simple strategy is to start your morning with daily greetings. You can do this as your pupils walk through the door or during the first few minutes of class. If you are teaching online, greetings can even be virtual. Use this printable greetings poster to get started.
Communicate behaviour expectations. Engage children in developing the classroom expectations and clearly discuss what is and is not acceptable behaviour. Provide children with many opportunities to practice these expectations and to receive feedback about their behaviour.
Model caring relationships and recognise positive behaviour. Children often learn by watching adults’ interactions with others, so help them see you modelling patience, kindness, and helpfulness throughout the day.
Offer plenty of opportunities for pupils to make choices throughout the day. Providing choices is a simple way to give children a sense of control, while still accomplishing the task at hand.
Information for parents and caregivers
It is also important for caregivers of young children to support the social and emotional development of their child. We have included behaviour tip sheet in our resource section that may be useful for parents or carers.
As with all matters of wellbeing taking time to focus on areas such as emotional intelligence and social confidence helps to build an outlook that feeds into the interactions a teacher has with the young people they support. Whilst we are preparing ourselves to help others we must also look after ourselves, we’ve got some advice and guidance on this in the teacher wellbeing section.