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How Parents Can Support Their Child's Social and Emotional Development

By Randi Owsley LMSW, Licensed Psychotherapist


Social and emotional development plays a crucial role in a child's overall well-being and is the foundation for building healthy relationships, managing emotions, and navigating social situations throughout their lives. As a parent, taking an active role in supporting your child's social and emotional development is essential for fostering resilience, empathy, and effective communication skills.

This article will discuss various ways parents can support their child's social and emotional growth, including empathy, effective communication, healthy friendships, and social interaction.


Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of others, and it is a critical component of children's social and emotional development[^1^]. Developing empathy helps children build stronger relationships, navigate conflicts more effectively, and become more compassionate and caring individuals.

Parents can encourage empathy in their children by:

  • Modeling empathetic behavior: Show empathy towards your child and others, and discuss the importance of understanding and caring for others' feelings.
  • Talking about feelings: Encourage your child to express their emotions and help them identify the emotions of others. Use books, movies, or real-life situations to discuss different emotions and perspectives.
  • Showing kindness and compassion: Engage in acts of kindness and compassion with your child, such as helping a neighbor or volunteering at a local organization. This will help them understand the impact of their actions on others.

Effective Communication

Effective communication skills are essential for children's social and emotional development, as they help them build stronger relationships and navigate social situations more successfully.

Parents can support their child's communication skills by:

  • Active listening: Demonstrate active listening by giving your child your full attention, making eye contact, and responding to what they are saying. This will help them feel heard and valued, and encourage them to listen to others.
  • Using “I” statements: Teach your child to express their feelings and needs using “I” statements, such as “I feel upset when…” or “I need help with…”. This can help them communicate more effectively and assertively.
  • Practicing assertiveness: Encourage your child to express their thoughts and feelings assertively, while also respecting the feelings and opinions of others. Role-playing different scenarios can be a helpful way to practice assertive communication.

Healthy Friendships

Healthy friendships play a vital role in children's social and emotional development, as they can lead to increased self-esteem, reduced anxiety, and improved social skills.

Parents can support their child's ability to form positive relationships by:

  • Encouraging shared interests: Help your child find activities or hobbies that they enjoy and can share with others, such as sports, clubs, or art classes.
  • Facilitating playdates: Arrange playdates or social gatherings with other children, providing a supportive environment for your child to practice their social skills and build friendships.
  • Discussing friendship qualities: Talk with your child about the qualities of a good friend, such as trust, respect, and kindness. Encourage them to seek out friends who exhibit these qualities and to be a good friend themselves.

Social Interaction

Social interaction is essential for children's development and well-being, as it helps them learn essential life skills, develop empathy, and build a sense of belonging.

Parents can create opportunities for their children to socialize with others by:

  • Joining clubs or sports teams: Encourage your child to participate in extracurricular activities that interest them and provide opportunities for social interaction[^13^].
  • Volunteering: Engage in volunteer activities with your child, such as helping at a local food bank or animal shelter. This can help them develop a sense of community and responsibility.
  • Participating in community events: Attend community events, such as festivals or neighborhood gatherings, to provide your child with opportunities to interact with others and build connections.


Supporting your child's social and emotional development is crucial for their overall well-being and success in life. By fostering empathy, teaching effective communication skills, encouraging healthy friendships, and providing opportunities for social interaction, parents can play a significant role in their child's growth and development. Remember, your involvement and guidance are essential in helping your child navigate the complexities of social and emotional development.

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How To Support Children’s Social and Emotional Development