Developing your kids' social & emotional skills

Healthcheck on Action News

It's a new school year, and many parents have high hopes for their kids' academic success.

However, a local psychologist says developing their emotional skills is just as important.

Students are back in class, hoping to do their best.

"I'm going to study hard so I can get all A's," says one Philadelphia student.

While learning math, history and science, psychologists believe it's just as important kids learn about themselves, and how to interact with others.

"You really need to look at social and emotional growth - things like control, coping, and communications skills," says Sarah Allen, Ph.D., of Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine.

Dr. Allen says control means how well do kids control their behaviors.

And when they have strong emotions, how do they handle them?

That leads into coping - how do kids handle relationships with others, especially when it may not go the way they expected?

"We're teaching them how to change the way that they might act and interact with their peers and their teachers," she says.

Dr. Allen says we can help kids learn how to make better decisions, if we share our process -

"How do i problem solve? What am I thinking? How am i getting one kid one place and another kid another place? And how am I deciding how I feel about that? And how am i actually going to get them there?" she notes.

And she says parents should listen as much as they talk.

"We want to listen, then talk, and listen again," she says.

Adding, "We want to hear where they are, answer their questions, but very basically, without imposing our feelings onto them."

And remember, "Kids learn best when they apply learning to stuff they already know."

Dr. Allen says parents often shield kids from conflict or failure.

However, in many cases, with some guidance, they can be good learning opportunities.

"You have to take that step back and think - what could my kid learn right now? what kind of social, emotional skill could I teach them through that experience?"

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