Social Emotional Needs of Children

Children often struggle with social emotional skills. Social skills can be learned at any age, but it may develop slowly. Stay patient.

Parents need to stay in tune of their child’s specific social emotional needs and help shape a strong framework for social-emotional health. I believe that children need peers of the same intellectual, emotional and curiosity levels.

6 Ways to Build Social Skills in Your Child:

  1. Build Her Organization and Problem-Solving Skills – Your child may struggle with disorganization because of high expectations of herself and others. Every day, help your child learn to think for himself. If he can’t find his notebook, guide him to recall where he might have left it. Practice developing problem-solving skills by explaining that you expect her to try looking before coming to you for help.
  2. Monitor Workload – Be gentle on your child and let her know that she does not need to strive for perfection. Help her break down assignments so she can learn when and how to take a break. Place a timer in her work area so she can get self-monitor when to take breaks. Don’t correct every grammatical error so she doesn’t worry about falling short in your, or others’, eyes.
  3. Practice ahead of time – Help her learn how to reach out and make friends by practicing with you or siblings in emotionally safe situations. With each simulation, determine a specific goal to work on. Simulate the challenge as best as you can to replicate the feelings. Review the success and work together to find strategies to address the challenges.
  4. Discuss ahead of time strategies – Together, when he is ready to listen, work on his challenges. Work together to create a plan to work on his urge to control situations and others. Be sure to build in a pause. Counting to 10 or breathing slowly to regain composure is helpful. Create a code word to remind him when he needs to address his behavior.
  5. Review Friendship issues – Your child may have a hard time making friends. Help your child think of kids that she likes and would like to get to know better. Work on ways she can reach out to them.
  6. Circumvent self-esteem issues – If he feels lonely, it is important to ask open questions to better understand what his emotions are. Role play the act of first saying hello and starting conversations.

Parent Coaching

Your goal is to help your child adopt new, positive skills and behaviors. You want them to practice in safe and trusting environment. Part of your child learning social skills is practicing without parents intervening. When a coach is watching a football game he does not suit up and take over. He makes notes to give the players at half time. As a parent coaching your child to improve his social skills the best way to help is to guide, prepare and allow him to practice without minimal interference.

For more information, watch my video on how to encourage social skills development

Read When Parents Embrace Social Emotional Learning Kids Feel the Joy Again



What is Social Emotional Learning (SEL) and Why is it so Important During COVID?

What is Social Emotional Learning (SEL)

My simple definition of Social Emotional Learning (SEL) – the ability to manage our emotions, build strong relationships, and live in a state of empathy, joy and empowerment.

When you are feeling angry, irritated, overwhelmed in COVID, struggling to initiate caring communication, and bewildered by others’ choices and self-awareness, you are in the midst of a SEL experience.

You can adapt to and adopt effective strategies, or you can succumbed to its effects.

CASEL defines SEL as “how children and adults learn to understand and manage emotions, set goals, show empathy for others, establish positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.”

Social Emotional Learning SEL
Social Emotional Learning SEL framework from CASEL








CASEL’s five core competencies are self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making.

Why SEL Training is So Important During COVID

Social Emotional LearningNo one is immune to the effects of COVID. No one can argue that our children are particularly affected. I share the concern of educators and experts in the Social Emotional Learning field that unless we implement measure ASAP to safeguard our children’s mental and emotional health, the long-term fallout of social isolation may be dire.

Many educators, tossed into this new and challenging environment, are working tirelessly to address academic needs. Although most appreciate and acknowledge the importance of relationships, they are begrudgingly forced into deprioritizing its immediate importance.

How Can We Support the “Whole Person”?

The “whole person” theory includes all elements of human development. SEL development is an integral part of this theory. Research shows that SEL development is also critical for academic performance.







The COVID Upheaval

The upheaval we are experiencing now is hard on everyone: children, teens, young adults, parents, educators, and the community. Parents are having a hard time working from home (or not working) while teaching – not just supporting – children. Educators are no longer doing the work they loved because they are tossed into a hybrid learning model that even they don’t like.

Life skills do not just include knowing math, geography and how to balance a check book. They include the ability to read a room, manage emotions and self manage.

Regardless of the difficulty in our current situation, we can’t allow SEL de-prioritization. Without attending to our relationships, and managing our emotions, we will not be able to come out the other side “whole” and “united”.

Deeper Dive:

5 Ways to Use Social Emotional Learning to Bring Back Joy

5 Ways Kids & Teens Can Take Back Joy During COVID-19

Overview of SEL


Build Social Emotional Skills Over the Holiday

The holidays are a very social time. This can be a good thing; and a not so good thing. Plan now to teach your child these social emotional skills exercises during the holidays.

Common Holiday Social Skills Dilemmas

Social Emotional Learning

Are you trying to avoid last year’s social challenges? Do you wish your teenager would chat easily with your uncle and not ignore everyone to text friends? Did your daughter’s clothing and comments raise eyebrows? Do you fear your son’s look of irritation or his sharp tone will make you cringe again? Were you told your kids played too rough with the cousins?

Plan for Now to Build Social Emotional Skills

The holidays are a perfect time to practice your child social emotional skills. Use this time to work on one specific mission. Probably what causes your child the most angst is also an area of concern for you. Talk openly about this with your child. Jointly decide on one social emotional skill that will build communication and relationship skills to last a lifetime.

social emotional learningWhere ever you go (or don’t go as the case may be) – you will interact with people. Use every opportunity at the mall, holiday parties virtually with friends and family, to standing in line at the grocery store – use the daily life of a parent managing the holiday grind to your advantage.

Are you ready to coach?

This year can be different. Not only are we in unprecedented times, but our social gatherings are more likely to be online than in person. That is OK. It is what it is this year – so let’s make the best of it.

This whole journey starts with you coaching your child. Some kids make friends easily and know how to navigate any social event. Other kids do not. As a parent you are the perfect person to work with your child. You know his struggles. You are her original teacher and are with her day in and day out.

5 Social Skills Exercises to Build Self-Awareness

  1. Help Your Child Become a social spy – Self-awareness is one of the core concepts in CASEL’s Social Emotional Learning framework. In this exercise, you will rehearse in advance what specific social information searching for. It is important for her to understand that she is to listen unobtrusively, to watch other people in a subtle, covert way without looking like she is listening. Have her report back on non-physical traits such as energy, behavior and mood. For physical traits, how about identifying how her peers are wearing their clothing and hair. What do they talk about at lunch? This information can then be used to assess her own traits in order to build self-awareness skills. Read more about Self-Awareness.
  2. Reading the Mood – This can work particularly well with online chats. In advance, identify which family members to observe in order to work on social emotional skills. How does their body language and intonation reflect what they are saying? What do they do to demonstrate their mood? Are they more positive than others? How do thy make you feel. Compare notes later and discuss how each of you would fare in this observation?
  3. Become a better Noticer – In advance of the call, have your child take mental note of grandma’s earrings, hair and clothing. Is there something new or something you like? What did you say that made her particularly happy? Discuss how he can build his communication skills by using this data when engaging in conversation.
  4. Teach your child to engage in a “polite pretend”- The ability to fake interest or happiness and to be polite even when your child is hungry, tired or bored is what I call a polite pretend. Begin by asking him some open-ended questions, what do you think your friend felt about your behavior? How do other people feel about how you treated them? What behavior does the situation call for? This will help your child think about his actions and why performing a polite pretend may be necessary rather than hurting other people’s feelings.
  5. Build a Conversationtaking a conversation from “hi” to a full-fledged conversation is hard for some children and teens but it is a life skill. Model how you use the data you both identified to engage someone. You can comment on her jewelry or clothing to start. Encourage your child to agree with you by nodding if talking is too difficult. The goal is to begin talking to people she doesn’t know well by noting how she talks to people she does know well

 Self-Awareness is at the Root of Belonging

Make a game of this exercise. It can be your own “little secret” and will not only help your child develop critical social skills, but also build your connection.

Deeper Dive:

Self-Management Skills Required this Holiday

5 Ways to Use Social Emotional Learning to Bring Back Joy

Do you worry about your child?


You are not alone. The pandemic has hit all of us hard in so many ways: financially, medically, academically, and socially. Social emotional concerns are at an all-time high. Parents share their struggles and concerns with me. My heart breaks for these kids – and this includes my own two children.

“Where is the fun?!” “How can this still be going on?” “Why can’t someone fix it?”

Add to the pandemic the chaos of an armed insurrection that occurred at the US Capitol. We, parents, are confused and feel helpless. Wouldn’t you gladly “fix” this if at all humanly possible?

I am here to tell you that there are things you can do as a parent to create joy and help your child or teen stay socially and emotionally centered.

5 Ways to Use Social Emotional Learning to Bring Back Joy and Civility 

  1. Walk in Their Shoes – Your child or teen needs you more than ever – even if she doesn’t show it. The world has become big and unrecognizable, and without the life experience you have, it can be scary. Social emotional concerns are at an all time high. You have no idea where we are headed either, but your steady presence can help keep his social emotional boat from tipping. Take a moment to put yourself in his shoes. It really is a tough time. Whatever means you use – meditation, deep breathing, exercise, hiding in a bathroom – try to get your emotions in check. This balance will enable you to manager your own emotions and allow you to truly empathize with your child or teen.
  2. Choose an Activity for Each Day – What activities can he do each day of the month? Rather than saying, “Hey, why don’t you create those videos you have always wanted to make,” say, “Why don’t we sit down and draft some quirky topics you can make videos of?” If a new topic is thought of every day, this will help your child stay focused and interested when they are feeling down. If you son loves tennis, maybe he (gently) hits a ball against the wall one day. The next day, he can do so with his backhand. Craft stores are a great way to bring out the creative right brain in all kids. The point here is to build on strengths, develop new interests, and strengthen relationships.
  3. Monitor and Adapt Tone and Banter – Everyone is at their worse when tired, sad, angry and lonely. Remembering this will help when one family member acts out. Come up with a word or phrase that everyone recognizes as the “code” for returning to civility. The whole family should try to be more considerate. Be sure to share with your children what respectful looks like and admit it when you struggle. In a non-shaming way, say the “code” when tempers flare, tone becomes disrespectful and actions are rude. Eventually, you will catch it before you will need to be told.
  4. Tap into Interests and Strengths – It can be easy to get caught in a stage of moping, but this is not a good place to rest. Together, when both of you are in a loving and receptive mood, brainstorms ways to tap into both of your strengths and interests. You both may have more time on your hands than ever before, so make a pact not to squander it. Be each other’s mentors and remind each other what you each like and where you can find joy. Maybe you both will actually come out of the pandemic with a new or renewed passion.
  5. Stay Centered – I know you miss your friends and former activities too. You don’t have to put on a “brave face” and insist all is OK in the world. As parents we are our children’s social and emotional coping models. It is OK, to share your disappointment, you are human too. Together you can come up with ways that will raise every member of the family’s spirits.  Think of it this way – 2021 is “The Year” to break old, stodgy rules.

The pandemic is tough – on every member of the family. Sharing together ways to overcome the struggle will nurture bonds that will hopefully bring up nice memories down the road on how you all pulled through in one of the worse periods in history.

Deeper Dive:

Encourage Social Skills Development

The Silver Lining: Empathy and Kindness

5 Ways Kids & Teens Can Take Back Joy During COVID-19 (& You Too!)

5 Ways Kids & Teens Can Take Back Joy During COVID-19

5 Ways to Find Joy

It’s six months into the pandemic, and your child is feeling the effects. Social distancing, virtual school, the loss of sports, chorus, and connections to friends are overwhelming your child or teen. His energy level is down. She hardly sees friends. All of their “free” time (which is quite a lot lately) is on screens. And most places are likely entering another phase of the COVID-19 lockdown, similar to last March. They’re likely in need of a few ways to find joy—maybe you are too!—so here, my tips to help take back your happiness.

Joy is hard to come by lately. Wouldn’t it be great to order a big box of it on Prime? With so much out of our control, don’t get discouraged. There are things you can do as a parent to create joy and help your child or teen stay centered:

Read more in MindBodyGreen

Empathy is Compassion

What is Empathy?


Self awareness and empathy are not just “nice to have,” they impact people’s ability to be successful in life. Research has shown that people who cannot imagine another person’s inner emotional life, who cannot manage their emotions and who cannot read the room, struggle in the workplace and are less successful than people who have critical social emotional skills.

Empathy is showing compassion, understanding another person’s experience. It is walking in someone else’s shoes.  The chances of bullying or ignoring another’s pain lessens remarkably in highly empathetic people.  The ability to show empathy is a life skill. Reading the Room is a skill everyone can, and should, build. Identifying the physical and non-physical energy of a room helps you build friends.  You are expected to express sorrow when someone is in distress.

Understanding Other People’s Emotions can be Taught

The child or adult who lacks empathy can be seen as uninteresting, selfish, boring and self-absorbed. Parents and teachers can teach empathy. This training can actually save this child from years of pain and isolation. Remember Empathy is Compassion, and who doesn’t need more of that?

How to Teach Empathy

Teaching empathy must involve the community and the individual. A community that respects each other will foster empathy. Greater understanding of empathy comes about by working with the individual. What does empathetic behavior look like? Modeling reinforces empathy, as actions and messages help others learn to  “walk in someone else’s shoes.”

3 Situations to Teach Empathy

•  The emotional experience of others – Draw attention to the emotional experience of others as the act is occuring. Quietly observe without staring, and later have conversation about this episode. How could that person have felt? What was that experience like for you to witness? What could be going on in their lives? What did you notice about her reaction to the situation? How do you think you would have reacted in his shoes?

Lack of Empathy in Individual – When an unpleasant behavior or action occurs, collaboratively talk about it. Rudeness or lack of empathy should be signals that this person is not interpreting how his behavior affects others. Ask, How do you think I feel when you correct me? Is that what you intended?

Others’ Point of View – Preaching rarely works. Instead of insisting, try to explore the state of mind of the person you wish she would reach out to. How does Grandma feel when you don’t visit? Do you think he would have liked to be invited to lunch? Step into the shoes of others to help him reflect on other people’s state of mind. What do other people feel? What is the reaction to their behavior? What did the other people’s facial expressions tell them about their feelings?

Empathy is a social emotional learning skill that needs to be taught. It is as important to a person’s development as academics. Teachers and parents have many resources, including those in Why Will No One Play With Me? to practice at home. This is particularly relevant during COVID.

Deeper Dive:

December 3, 2020 – Social Emotional Training for Teachers and Adults with Caroline Maguire and Scarlett Lewis

3 Tips to Building Empathy During a Social Crisis

Why Teaching Your child Empathy Builds Their Social Skills – Psychology Today


Self-Management Skills Required this Holiday

Like our nation, many of our families are divided.

Self-Management Skills Required this HolidayThis election was a BIGGIE! Whichever side you are on, chances are self-management skills will be required this Holiday season!

What is meant to be a time of joy, kindness, generosity and togetherness can be tinged with dread. We dread the division of our families and our country. We dread witnessing the jabs between our favorite aunt, who is waving a Trump flag, and our favorite cousin, who has spent his life in social service and is vehemently against Trump.

Like our nation, many of our families are divided

And like the country, our families are not always communicating with each other in the way that we would hope.

We love BOTH our aunt and our cousin.  Our children, sitting at the small folding table next to the adult table, are watching us. We are their models. Self-management skills will be required this Holiday season and they can do better if we do better. Moreover, children have a way of loving everyone for who they are – even in a big burly sweater.

Self-Management Skills are Required this Holiday Season

What if we could be proud of our self-management?  What if we step into someone else’s shoes and try to remember who these people are and what they have meant to us? What if we pause before we speak?

Self-management requires self-regulation, self-reflection, perspective taking and/or stepping into someone else’s shoes. Use our understanding of the other person’s past and intentions, we can project their possible reactions.  Our self-awareness will help us react in measured and respectable ways.

We need strategies on how to  offer – and accept – compassion, kindness and perspective.

5 Strategies for Improved Self-Management Skills This Holiday Season:

1.Remember Intention– Assume and remember the best intentions of those around you. What has each one done for you? This is especially important for the relatives on the other side of the aisle.  For those relatives with whom you don’t share the same views, make an extra effort to listen to them. Validate their feelings and emotions.  You can say, “Interesting. I can see why you would feel that way.”  As you express your opinions,  remember to focus on the kindness, compassion and respect your relative has shown you for years, her acts of love and affection.  What you say can damage your relationship.

Self-Management Skills Required this Holiday2.Walk in their Shoes  What could be going on in the his life? Has this year been particularly tough financially? Could COVID have hit her family harder than yours?  Don’t assume motives. Ask Open Ended questions and truly listen to the response without judgement.

3.Build a Bridge to Understanding –If your intention is to speak to your family with respect, ditch the one-liners, zingers and sarcasm. Breathe deeply, pause and respond in a way that convey respect. Keep your tone neutral and avoid words like “always” and “never”.

4.Listen- Listening isn’t just not talking. It involves eye contact, and connection. Keep facial expressions and body language relaxed and friendly. Don’t interrupt or “one-up” either.

5.Manage Emotions Rather Than Having Them Manage You– Now, before the holidays arrive, make a mental or written note of the symptoms your body expresses when it becomes agitated. Come up with ways to lessen these reactions so you don’t overheat and blow your top or say something you wish you didn’t. Use mindfulness to manage your emotions by recognizing the signs and breathing consciously to slow your mind and thoughts.

6.Don’t climb onto the soapbox – It is highly unlikely that you will influence or change anyone’s deep-seated beliefs over pumpkin pie. Keep away from the lectures and ask for another slice of pie instead.

7.Find the similarities– Humans share lots in common as a species. Emphasize commonality and stay away from shaming or declarations of incompatibility.

This holiday season, instead of banning certain topics, institute rules of respect. Insist on giving each member equal time, refrain from interruptions and allow a retort.

In my practice, one of the things I do is teach kids how to listen to one another, to show respect to their peers, and to practice the skills of empathy in order to form a connect. Now more than ever, we need to be reminded of those skills, and practice them with gusto.


SEL Guidance in Response to the 2020 Election
CASEL offers guidance and resources for creating safe, supportive learning environments in which young people and adults can process the election and continue their civic participation.


When Someone Isn’t Nice, Should You Ignore It?



Self-Awareness in Social Emotional Learning (SEL)

Now is a great time to get to know yourself better!

How do you respond to situations out of your control?

The Importance of Self-Awareness

Self-awareness is a core component of Social Emotional Learning (SEL) and can have a huge impact on our lives.

First, just as mindfulness, meditation and gratitude can shift your mindset, so can self-awareness. Second, it can bring a positive spin on things. Third, it can enable you to better understand yourself and why you do what you do.

Social Emotional Learning
CASEL Social Emotional Learning Framework

The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) – a trusted source for knowledge about high-quality, evidence-based social and emotional learning (SEL) – includes self-awareness as one of its core SEL competencies. The other four competencies are self-management, responsible decision-making, relationship skills, and social awareness.

Learn more and download CASEL’s SEL framework.

What is Self-Awareness?

Self-awareness is the process of bringing your attention to what’s happening in a mindful and open-minded way. It is the ability to recognize and understand emotions, values, goals, or strengths.

“Change requires two things: a goal, and an awareness of where one currently is in order to assess the discrepancy between the two.” – Psychology Today

If you want to change, you need to understand your current situation and then know where you want to go.

How to Build Self-Awareness for Social Emotional Learning

The good news is that self-awareness can be taught and adopted. I am a big proponent of open questions and reflective listening. These communication techniques allow the speaker and the recipient to reflect on their thought-processes and adapt.

Why is Self-Awareness so Important?

Self-awareness is a core component of Social Emotional Learning (SEL). It can help you realize how you respond to situations, where your weaknesses lie, and bring about positive decision-making.

1. You Recognize Your Strengths and Weaknesses

Dr Hallowell tells us to build up our strengths and worry less about raising our weaknesses. I completely agree. Cut yourself a break when things fall apart and celebrate when things go well.

2. You are not Held Hostage by Your Emotions

Self-management is another SEL competency.  It is very important for character development. It allows you to understand why you feel a certain way. Now you are in charge of how to react. Don’t let emotions control you. This is a healthy way to deal with life’s ups and downs.

3. It Provides Inspiration

Only you can really, truly motivate yourself. Want to start that big project? Channel your self-awareness to understand what you need to do to create a mindset that motivates you.

4. You Can Read the Room

It is critical to understand how others interpret us. How do you come across? As you are interacting with people, notice how they are responding to you. Pause and notice their body language and facial expressions. If you can read others’ reactions, you can change your behavior. I provide advice on how to Read the Room in my book and video.

5. You Know Your Values

No one can make you do something that you feel is not right or in your best interest. You decide what boundaries you will not cross. This is HUGE!

6. You Identify and Interpret Your Thoughts

Are you thinking or saying unkind things to yourself or others? Self-awareness allows you to recognize this and shift to a more positive approach.

7. You Listen to Your Gut

If your intuition is telling you something, you now listen. This is one of the best reasons to build self-awareness.


Self-awareness is your SuperPower! Build it, honor it and use it!


What is SEL?

Facebook Live Q&A Video 7

How to Nurture Social Emotional Development in Isolation

Children With ADHD: Does It Ever Get Better?

Your Child with ADHD isn’t Trying to Upset You.

children with ADHDSymptoms of inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity can cause many problems if left untreated. If your child can’t focus and control himself, he may struggle in school, get into trouble, and find it hard to get along with others or make friends. These difficulties can lead to low self-esteem and possibly create a stressful home situation.

ADHD Treatment

Effective treatment can have a huge, positive impact on your child. Finding the right support, your child can get on track for success in all areas of life.

The first thing to do if you think you child may have ADHD is to seek professional help. Second, even without an official diagnosis, you can implement healthy changes to help manage her hyperactivity, inattention, and impulsivity. These interventions include therapy, ADHD coaching, parent education, mindfulness,  exercise, a simplified schedule and supports to both teach your child the life skills she needs and specific ADHD friendly structures and tricks.

The ADHD Diagnosis

If you do receive a diagnosis of ADHD, begin creating a personalized treatment plan with your child’s doctor. Include her therapist and school guidance department to make sure all bases are covered. Effective treatment for childhood ADHD includes the whole child and can involve behavioral or CBT therapy, ADHD coaching, possible medication, parent education and training, social skills support, school accommodation and possibly medication.

Parenting tips for children with ADHD

You may find yourself exhausted or cranky at times if your child’s energy makes it difficult for them to listen to you, finish homework or eat dinner.

Regain Control while Helping Your Child with ADHD

Create Structure –  Children with ADHD need consistency and clear communication. Praise is important to reward good behavior and logical consequences for poor behavior. They also need lots of love, support, and encouragement.

Help your child make friends – Help him become a better listener, learn to read people’s expressions and body language, and interact more smoothly with others. (See advice at the bottom of this page).

Take Care of Yourself too

As a parent of a child with ADHD, you need your mental, emotional and physical strength. The better you care for yourself, the better you can take care of your child. Diet, exercise, sleep, stress reduction and support from family and friends as well as your child’s doctor and teachers will help you.


Encourage Social Skills Development

The Silver Lining: Empathy and Kindness

Keep the Social in Social Distancing

Connection is a Verb

How to Nurture Social Emotional Development in Isolation


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