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Families Can Help Develop Social-Emotional Skills

What does social-emotional health mean? The National Scientific Council on the Developing Child, 2004, puts it simply as, “The core features of emotional development include the ability to identify and understand one’s own feelings, to accurately read and comprehend emotional states in others, to manage strong emotions and their expression in a constructive manner, to regulate one’s own behavior, to develop empathy for others, and to establish and sustain relationships.” This content-packed sentence highlights the great affect social-emotional health has on our relationships and overall quality of life.

Families are the first and most important influence on a child’s social-emotional development. For the most part families naturally fulfill this responsibility by simply being responsive to their child’s needs and providing a safe environment to grow and learn. As children grow older, their social-emotional development continues through their experiences and interactions with extended family, teachers, sports, activities, peers, friends, community leaders, media personalities, and many other life experiences. As parents it is important to encourage our children to expand their circle of influence and to find more ways to support their social-emotional growth. The goal is to raise happy children who become positive contributing members of our society.

How is social-emotional health different for children who are deaf or hard of hearing (dhh)? It is NOT different for children who are dhh and families are still the number one influence on their social-emotional development. What is different for a child who is dhh is their access to language. Language access for communication, both expressive and receptive, is key critical to building strong social-emotional skills and reliant on a child’s ability to hear or “listening bubble”.

“Children typically learn social skills with little effort starting at a young age. These skills are shaped by children watching others and having other people react to their behavior. How we learn social skills is based on very subtle cues, such as facial expression, body posture and quiet auditory cues. Because of their smaller “listening bubbles” children who are dhh do not pick up language and the subtle aspects of interactions going on around them as fully as their peers with typical hearing,”

What can families do to better support the social-emotional development of their child who is dhh? Families can take a deliberate approach and contact outside resources. A few ideas to start developing your child’s social-emotional skills:

  • Learn to communicate with your child who is dhh. Figure out what works best for your child and your family and follow through. Commit to a communication plan, language, or modality, give it time and your communication skills will develop and in the process your child’s skills will too. If you find at some point your communication plan is not the right fit for your child, don’t be afraid to commit to a new plan. Do not give up; you will not regret figuring out the best way to communicate with your child.
  • Contact your local school district to find out more about their special education program. They can provide you with resources and information to help guide education decisions. They will evaluate your child’s needs and together with your family they will develop an Individual Family Service Plan (IFSP) or Individual Education Plan (IEP). Ask questions, listen, observe, and get involved in your child’s education.
  • Explore your child’s options to amplify the sound they have access to. Increase the size of their “listening bubble”.

H Find other families who share your unique experience of raising a child who is dhh. Build a community of people who support your family and add to your child’s community of safe people to socialize with.

H Listen to adult role models who are also dhh willing to share their experiences and insight with your family.

In addition to the above list of deliberate ways families can help children who are dhh with social-emotional development, there are other ways families can help their child’s inter-personal communication skills. These skills can make a lasting positive impact in their life.

List of eight activities:

  1. Take turns telling short stories to each other.
  2. Create scenarios with your child in which manners and courtesy should be used and have your child practice being courteous and polite.
  3. Practice decision-making scenarios and strategies.
  4. Take turns with your child giving each other instructions to complete a task.
  5. Create scenarios in which your child has to use her words to communicate her wants and needs.
  6. Encourage your child to share her belongings with others and practice asking others for permission to use their belongings.
  7. Practice teasing scenarios with your child.
  8. H Play board games, card games, or other types of games with your child.

List taken from online, 8 Fun Activities to Practice Social Skills with Your Child, posted May 25, 2016, by Rachel Wise,

There are endless ways a family can support their child’s social-emotional development. As parents, you know your child best and can explore any number of ideas on your own. Just know that your family’s expression of love and affection has been and always will be the universal way to best communicate with each other and the strongest foundation on which to build your child’s social-emotional skills.