New Report Is an Important Reminder That Little Kids Have Big Feelings

Too Small to Fail looks at how parents can help foster young kids' social-emotional development, and we're pretty sure you'll find the insights super-helpful.
Tanya Little/Shutterstock

Too Small to Fail, a joint initiative of the Clinton Foundation and The Opportunity Institute, has released a new report on social-emotional development in early childhood. Social-emotional development is defined as a combination of relationships we share with others, plus emotional awareness and the ability to recognize, understand, express, and respond to feelings in socially appropriate ways.

The goal of the report: To help parents understand and manage their kids' behavior, which as every parent knows, can be a very tall order.

"Social-emotional development is a critical component of a child's brain growth and is interconnected with all other types of learning – such as language, literacy, and math," commented Kara Dukakis, director of Too Small to Fail, in a press release. She added, "Our goal is to support a dialogue around the importance of early social-emotional development while providing parents with the resources that can help them better understand a child's behavior, manage it, and take care of themselves during the more challenging parenting moments."

Among the report's findings:

  • Social-emotional development plays several key roles in early childhood, from understanding feelings, to taking turns, to building healthy relationships with others. It is the foundation upon which much other learning takes place.
  • Children with strong social-emotional skills do better in school because they are more focused, can cooperate with and learn from others, and exhibit fewer behavioral problems.
  • Healthy social-emotional development in early childhood leads to better outcomes in adulthood, such as improved health, better jobs, and more stable relationships.
  • Positive parent-child (or caregiver-child) interactions offer benefits to parents and caregivers, in addition to better social-emotional development in children.
  • There is a gap in understanding about social-emotional development, but if we improve intervention programs that support parents and caregivers, and undertake broad-based awareness efforts, we can help all children grow into healthy, successful adults.

Several award-winning filmmakers have also stepped up to help create videos on this important topic.

One video is called "Small Children Have Big Feelings," a title that, as a mom of three daughters, I can vouch is 100 percent accurate. It highlights how even a seemingly-random grocery store meltdown is actually driven by underlying emotions.

We see how earlier in the day, before the grocery store trip, the child went to a playground, and dropped his teddy bear, which greatly upset him.

Then, his nap is interrupted by the vacuum cleaner, and it seems to frighten him.

After the nap, the little boy is stressed out by a shape-sorting toy.

It's now easy to see how the many ups and downs of the day lead up to an epic meltdown in the store, and how it isn't random at all.

More than anything, the video serves as a great reminder that even small moments that we as parents may not think are a big deal can seem huge to kids. And we can control how we react to the emotions kids feel as a result of these big, little things.

This is a point Chelsea Clinton drives home in a new, supporting piece in the Huffington Post, "To Nurture Compassionate Children, Start at Birth."

"Children's earliest experiences meaningfully shape who they are," Clinton writes. "From the moment they're born, parents and caregivers can help children build a strong social-emotional foundation through their nurturing and loving relationships, including through their everyday routines and moments when they talk, read and sing together. All learning is interconnected, and the earlier we start, the better off all children will be."

She adds, "We all must do everything we can to help our children grow up equipped to navigate our world's increasing complexity with compassion, empathy and competence. Nurturing these qualities in the next generation is a shared responsibility, and the sooner we start the better off we'll be."

Check out more resources, including videos and tip sheets, on the initiative's website.

Melissa Willets is a writer/blogger and soon-to-be mom of 4. Find her on Facebook and Instagram where she chronicles her life momming under the influence. Of yoga.

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