Supporting Social & Emotional Development in Kids Ages 8-11

Fostering social and emotional development in kids ages 8-11 is incredibly important. Read some expert tips on how to help your child.


Self-awareness is knowing your emotions, strengths and challenges, and how your emotions affect your behavior and decisions.

Use different words to describe emotions.

For example, instead of saying, "I’m happy we all get to spend the weekend together," try using a word like "grateful" or "thankful" or "glad."

Use books or television to point out emotions to your child.

When discussing a character in a book that you are reading, you can say, "The character reminds me of you -- people like to talk to her because she is a good listener!" or, "The character reminds me of the time when you were nervous because you didn’t have any of your old friends in your class. Can you relate to the character?"


Self-management is controlling emotions and the behaviors they spark in order to overcome challenges and pursue goals.

How to help your child with stress management:

"I know you’re having trouble studying for that math test. Maybe you can ask one of your classmates to study with you." If they're upset about something, you can suggest, "It looks like you’re worried about something. Why don’t you go outside and play or take a break and we can go for a walk together?"

Share your struggles with your child to teach them about resilience.

"When I was your age, I wasn’t good at sports at all, but I really wanted to be on the soccer team. I didn’t get chosen the first year, but I practiced, and practiced, and I got a spot on the team the next year. What are some goals you want to accomplish?"

Talk to your child about the process it would take to reach their dreams. For example, if they want to be a doctor, you can say,

"If you want to be a doctor, you need to go to college and medical school before you get help patients. Maybe we should watch some movies about doctors and medicine so you can get an idea of what it’s like."

Compliment your child when they delay gratification. For example, if you notice they were able to pick up their room before watching TV or playing with friends, you could say,

"I know you really wanted to watch TV right after school, but it shows a lot of responsibility that you picked up your room first. I’m proud of you for waiting."

Social Awareness

Social awareness is understanding and respecting the perspectives of others, and applying this knowledge to social interactions with people from diverse backgrounds.

How to show your child empathy in action:

"When I put myself in your shoes, I can see why you feel this way," or simply express understanding with phrases like, "I understand where you are coming from."

Talk to your child about the connection between kindness and gratitude.

"What are you grateful for today? I’m grateful because my co-worker helped me with my project today. Was someone kind to you? Did you help someone today or brighten up their day by doing something nice? Are there any other ways you can show kindness to others?"

Share your family values with your child. For example, you can say,

"In our family, we value honesty, loyalty, generosity and kindness. We also respect others, and we always try to value their feelings and ideas. How are some ways that you can apply these values to your own friendships?"

Discuss the importance of being polite to others.

You may want to tell your child, "When you are talking or interacting with anyone, remember to be polite by listening patiently while others speak, and not interrupting them. If your friend does something nice for you, don’t forget to say ‘thank you,’ and if you do something wrong, try to apologize."


The ability to interact meaningfully with others and to maintain healthy relationships with diverse individuals and groups contributes to overall success.

How to talk to your child about friendships:

"How’s your friend Carlos doing? I haven’t seen him come over to the house lately. Are you still hanging out with him? Have you met any new friends in class recently?"

Discuss the importance of trust in relationships with your child.

"You should always trust to your friends and expect the same in return. If your friend Travis lied to you, what do you think you should do? Have you ever lied to him? What did you do to make it better?"

How to practice active listening with your child:

"You made really good eye contact with me and you seemed to be very interested in what I had to say. People like it when you pay attention as they speak, and that’s why you need to listen actively when others talk. Why do you think listening is important?"

Provide your child with tools to help overcome bullying.

"What would you do if your friend started calling a classmate hurtful names?"

You can say something like, ‘Our classmate was hurt by what you said. How would you feel if he did that to you? Maybe you should say that you’re sorry.’ "

Responsible Decision-Making

Responsible decision-making is the ability to make choices that are good for you and for others. It is also taking into account your wishes and the wishes of others.

Show your child that you love and support their decisions.

If they have an issue with a friend, you can say, "Would you like to talk to your friend and ask him what you did to upset him, or would you rather give him some time to cool down? I will support you in whatever you decide."

Talk through problems, logical consequences, and resolutions with your child.

For example, if your child is falling behind on their homework, you can say, "Why don’t you set aside time after dinner to continue working instead of hanging out at your friend Jenny’s house tonight?"

Social & Emotional Development

Research shows that those with higher social-emotional skills have better attention skills and fewer learning problems, and are generally more successful in academic and workplace settings. Like any math or English skills, these skills can be taught and grow over time.

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