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How to Model Social and Emotional Skills

How to Model Social and Emotional Skills

Children are master observers. They learn a ton just by watching others. So your actions and words can help them learn social and emotional skills.

So what kinds of actions and words are we talking about here? We’ve created a mini-guide with 3 ways to help you model social and emotional skills when you’re with kids. It’s a win-win too. It’ll help the kids – and you.

3 Ways to Model Social and Emotional Skills

  1. Emotions

    This is the big one. Emotions are connected to everything else in this guide (and Zoy in general!). Everyone experiences strong and difficult emotions. It’s part of being a human! As adults and caregivers, it can seem easier to avoid emotions and push them back down. What happens then? If you’re picturing a bottle – you’re on the right track. Holding in emotions bottles them up inside of us. At some point – we’re going to overflow. This might look like yelling unnecessarily or saying something too harsh to a child.

    Your ability to understand and manage your emotions can have a direct impact on how a child learns to do the same.

    When you experience a difficult emotion in front of a child, try these steps.

    • Breathe
    • Name the emotion
    • Express it in a healthy way

    First, breathe. Then say “I’m feeling frustrated, so I’m going to take a few deep breaths and try again. I really need you to hear my words.”

    This could also look like: saying when you feel overwhelmed and that you need a break or quiet time.

  2. Talking about people – including yourself!

    Try not to speak negatively about yourself or others. This includes physical or non-physical attributes.

    In situations of conflict, verbalize how someone else might be feeling or what they may be going through. For example, a younger child takes a toy from an older child. The older child is rightfully upset. After you’ve validated the older child’s emotion, talk to them about how the younger child is still learning how to ask and take turns.

    This helps kids be more aware of others. They’ll come to understand that not everyone thinks or feels the same way they do.

  3. Admit when you make mistakes

    When you make a mistake, be open about it. Talk about it. When we own our mistakes or failures, we learn from them and build resilience. And like we said before, kids will learn to do the same.

    Here’s a quick example: You gossip or say something negative about someone when you’re with a child. You can say “Wait. That wasn’t right for me to say, I shouldn’t have said that. I will work on thinking about other people before I speak.”

Let’s wrap it up!

The main takeaway is this: breathe and check in with your emotions. And remember, all of this takes practice. It can take time to unlearn what you’re used to doing. You’ve got this!


  • Remy Bessolo

    Remy Bessolo is a forest school teacher, professional voice actor, and copywriter. She has been working with kids for over 10 years in a variety of settings - preschool, summer sleep away camp, and behavioral therapy just to name a few. She loves to hike, travel, dance, and even go bungee jumping! She earned her B.A. in Integrated Educational Studies from Chapman University.

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Remy Bessolo
Author and Forest School Educator


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