Help Your Child Build Social-Emotional Skills

Babies holding hands

We all need social-emotional skills to have a happy life filled with positive personal relationships. We use these skills every day in all sorts of ways: when we interact with family, build friendships, work out conflicts, follow the rules, or offer help and compassion to others. 

At the heart of all social-emotional skills are certain basic abilities. We must be able to understand our feelings, manage our emotions, and express ourselves in a healthy way. We need to know how to regulate our own behaviors. And when we’re with others, we need the ability to “read” and understand their emotions. 

Social-emotional skills develop over time, starting from birth. Naturally, parents and families play a primary role! Here are just a few ways we encourage this process in the first few years of life. 

For babies from birth to 12 months, we respond to all their needs, we learn their likes and dislikes, and we support their development through play and other interactions. We keep them safe and secure, and we show them constant love and acceptance by being affectionate, nurturing and patient all the time – regardless of circumstances. 

For children ages 12 months to 24 months, we ensure their safety as they play, explore and learn. We encourage simple problem-solving and praise their efforts – not just the outcome. We help them develop self-control through waiting patiently, taking turns and sharing. We model how to solve conflicts peacefully, and we help them do the same. 

For children ages 2 to 3, we set clear rules and limits, so they can feel secure. We help them identify their emotions and feel their genuine feelings – without acting out in a negative way. We help them develop empathy by understanding how their behavior affects others, and how others might be feeling. We let them choose the type of play they enjoy and we join in, so they feel valued and accepted. 

When it comes time for school, strong social-emotional skills make learning easier. Children who have them can relax, focus and feel motivated to do their best. They’re more likely to enjoy their work, cooperate with others, and bond with their teachers and classmates. 

The best, first place to learn and practice social-emotional skills is within the family. By making quality family time a priority we’re creating a foundation for a contented life!

GERD and Crying

Mom kissing crying baby

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) affects about half of all babies. It happens when food and stomach acid back up into the esophagus (the tube that runs from the mouth to the stomach), causing burning and pain. If your baby cries or fusses more than usual after eating, see your baby’s healthcare provider. If the problem is GERD, they’ll make recommendations that might include a change in diet and keeping your baby upright during and after feeding. While most babies outgrow GERD between 6 months and 1 year, in some cases surgery is needed. Of course, babies cry for many other reasons, and some require extra soothing. In any case, a visit to their healthcare provider is the best place to start.

Learn more about GERD.

Flu Vaccine Strongly Reduces Risk of Flu-Related Death

Adult feeling kiddo's forehead

The flu can be life-threatening. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that during the 2017–2018 flu season, 178 children in the U.S. died of flu-related illness. About 80% of these deaths were children who had not had that season’s flu vaccine.

The good news is that the flu vaccine significantly reduces a child’s risk of dying from the flu.

In 2017, a study in the medical journal Pediatrics showed that among healthy children, the vaccine reduces the risk of death from the flu by nearly two-thirds: 65%. And among children with underlying high-risk medical conditions, the vaccine reduces their risk by 51%. That study looked at data from four flu seasons between 2010 and 2014.

The best way to prevent seasonal flu is to have everyone over 6 months old in your family vaccinated each year. In the U.S., flu season usually begins in December and lasts until April. It’s best to get the flu vaccine as soon as it becomes available.

Learn more about the flu.

Understanding the Types of Bullying

Two girls laughing at another girl

Kids and parents alike must understand what bullying is and recognize the forms it can take. How is bullying actually defined? It is behavior that is both unwanted and aggressive. It always includes an imbalance of power in which the child who bullies uses some form of power to control or harm whoever they are bullying. And bullying is behavior that is repeated over time – or that has the potential to be repeated over time.

Bullying can take different forms: physical, verbal, social and cyberbullying. Physical bullying includes attacking someone or using body motions or facial expressions to suggest an attack may happen. Hitting, shoving, poking and glaring are all physical bullying, as is taking someone’s lunch, knocking something out of their hands or messing up their belongings. Verbal bullying includes name-calling, teasing, taunting, and threatening. Social bullying (also called relational bullying) often involves purposely excluding someone from a group and encouraging others to do so. Social bullying can include gossip, rumor-spreading and humiliation.

Cyberbullying happens over digital devices like smartphones, computers and gaming consoles. It can occur through calls, texts, emails, personal messaging, chat functions and social media apps. It includes sending, posting, or sharing any sort of negative content about someone else – anything that embarrasses or humiliates another person.

Bullying is upsetting and potentially harmful for all involved. Kids who bully often require focused help to understand and change their destructive behavior. Kids who are bullied and those who observe bullying need help in learning how to respond and take action safely.

Visit StopBullying.gov to learn more.

Child-Resistant Is Not Childproof

Medicine bottle cap

Don’t count on child-resistant packaging. Even with this safety feature, a child can often open it. Tragically, every 12 days in the United States, a child under age 6 dies from an accidental overdose of prescription drugs, pain relievers, vitamins and other medicines they find within easy reach. And every nine minutes in our country, accidental poisoning with medicine sends a young child to the emergency room. It’s crucial that parents, grandparents and other caregivers do not store these items – even those in child-resistant packaging – anywhere that is visible and within reach. Instead, always store medicines up, away and out of reach. It’s always best to lock them up.

Read Up and Away: Storing Medicines Safely to learn more.

For Minor Injuries, Remember R.I.C.E.

foot wrapped in ace bandage

Active kids get minor injuries from time to time. You can treat these strains, sprains and bruises at home, using the tried-and-true R.I.C.E. method as soon as possible after the injury occurs. R is for resting the injured area. I is for icing the injured area for 20 minutes every two hours to reduce pain and swelling. C is for compression, using a compression wrap (like an Ace bandage) to reduce swelling. And E is for elevate: raise the injured area to a level at or above the heart while applying ice, and whenever your child is sitting or lying down. Call your child’s healthcare provider if you think they need to be seen, and especially if the pain lasts for more than three days.

Visit Should Your Child See a Doctor? to learn more.

Tips for Effective Praise

Mom and son high fiving

One way to encourage positive behavior and help build your child’s self-esteem is to use sincere praise for their effort. Rather than relying on the words “good job,” be specific. Name the behavior that you appreciate: “I like the way you jumped in to help unload the groceries,” or “I am so proud of the care you took to make that special get-well card for Grandpa.” Compliment their effort when they spend time practicing a skill or trying something new. And when your child uses healthy coping strategies to work through frustration or anger, tell them that you notice, and praise them for their hard work. Praise is powerful when it’s specific and sincere – and based on effort rather than results.

Quick Tip

JUUL is a popular brand of e-cigarettes. One JUUL pod contains as much nicotine as a pack of cigarettes.