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How to help children develop social and emotional life skills

We want the best for our children. We strive to give them a happy environment, learning opportunities, and prepare them to lead a healthy and productive life. Often, we make considerable personal and financial sacrifices, to provide them with “optimal” learning environments such as schools and early learning centres. In turn, difficulties in accessing these educational settings can be a considerable source of stress for parents and caregivers.

Fortunately, what may be the most powerful learning environment is already available to our children, with research indicating that learning activities undertaken at home during early childhood play an essential role in academic achievement and good emotional health throughout childhood and adolescence (1,2). In short, the best opportunities to develop social and emotional skills children can use for life, are ready and waiting within their home.

What are social and emotional life skills?
Social and emotional life skills are essential components of good mental health, solid relationships, and handling life’s ups and downs. These skills have been divided into five core competencies: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills and responsible decision-making (3). Some specific examples of social and emotional life skills include setting goals, being self-reliant, showing leadership, and being persistent. Skills such as these assist children in developing a solid understanding of their own identity and worth, which in turn assists in promoting adaptive outcomes such as withstanding peer pressure and bullying, and building confidence to pursue a range of social, personal, and academic opportunities and goals.

Why are emotional and social life skills important for children?
As a society, we have the tended to overemphasise the role of academic achievement in predicting success throughout one’s lifetime, while underestimating the role of social and emotional skills for the same goal. Yet, emotional intelligence (a measure of social and emotional skills), has been demonstrated as a better predictor of career success when compared to general intelligence (4). Further, social and emotional skills are proposed as being a necessary basis of academic learning, with particular emphasis on self-management skills such as being organised and setting goals. In sum, social and emotional skills represent an essential skill set for all children that they can use now, and throughout their lifetime (5).

Social and emotional development starts in infancy and as any parent or caregiver can attest, infants are effective and loud communicators. Over time, children refine their ability to communicate by watching and imitating others, and learn to recognise their thoughts, feelings and needs, as well as those of other people (6). The ability to recognise thoughts and emotional states, is the foundation for developing healthy coping strategies such as effective communication, and hopefulness. Children that have skills and strategies feel more confident to take on challenges, handle disappointments, and engage in social interactions such as making new friends.

What is the role of parents and caregivers in learning emotional and social life skills?
Every day at home, families and caregivers are providing children with valuable social and emotional life skills that are essential to maximising the opportunity for happiness and fulfilment. We may not be aware of this, yet our daily family interactions are helping to reinforce positive social and emotional outcomes in our children, even when conflict arises. When we model an adaptive or positive response to a difficult situation, or even our own distressing emotions, we help children to both normalise their own aversive feelings and deal with them in an adaptive way. This process can be made easier, or even more fun through the use of learning tools that can be used as part of your routine such as bedtime stories, or while travelling in the car, or as a way of entertaining bored children at home. The Muzicbug Program has been designed to assist you to help your children build social and emotional skills while you go about your daily routine.

What is the Muzicbug Program, and how does it assist in learning social and emotional life skills?
The Muzicbug Program is an innovative series of picture story books, eBooks, music, and activities that assist children develop adaptive social, personal and learning skills. The Program endeavours to introduce and create awareness of 20 emotional and social key life skill areas through the stories and activities of a Muzicbug. These 20 talented critters use music, dance, games and stories to introduce children to each bugs own life skill. Along with the picture story books, music, activities and the innovative Muzicbug Awards chart, the program assists in providing parents and caregivers to create an environment where children can practice and reinforce these life skills, in a way that fits in as part of your daily routine, rather than an additional burden on your time. Through ongoing practice, encouragement, and positive reinforcement, children can develop social and emotional skill awareness with benefits they can use that through the rest of their lives. Learning skills such as showing courage, being reliable, making extra effort, and being hopeful, are just like learning academic skills…practice makes perfect.

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1. New York University. “Child’s home learning environment predicts 5th grade academic skills.” ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/08/170815120542.htm (accessed September 27, 2017).
2. Commerford, J. “How does the home environment influence children’s learning?” Child, Family, Community, Australia (CFCA). https://aifs.gov.au/cfca/2015/09/23/how-does-home-environment-influence-children-s-learning (accessed September 22, 2017).
3. Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL). “Core SEL Competencies.” CASEL. http://www.casel.org/core-competencies/ (accessed September 29, 2017).
4. Williams, R. “What Are The Predictors of Career Success?” Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/wired-success/201401/what-are-the-predictors-career-success (accessed October 1, 2017).
5. Ogg, J, Gohr, K, & LaRosa, K. “Why a child’s social-emotional skills are so important.” Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-wide-wide-world-psychology/201701/why-child-s-social-emotional-skills-are-so-important (accessed September 29, 2017).
6. Beyond Blue. “Social and emotional development.” Healthy Families. https://healthyfamilies.beyondblue.org.au/age-1-5/social-and-emotional-development (accessed September 29, 2017).


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