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During the summer break many parents and kids find themselves with spare time on their hands, and it’s the perfect opportunity to help your children build social-emotional skills before the school year begins. What are social-emotional skills, you ask? They are the skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions - they are the skills that help children succeed in school and in life!
Each of the following areas include a book suggestion, but there are endless possibilities for books to read this Summer! Share any favorites on Facebook and Twitter using the #MomsReading hashtag, and let us know what your family is enjoying, and how they are helping your child grow.
• Read This! Read I Like Me, and help your child brainstorm positive words to describe themselves. You can also use Sesame Street’s “What We Are” anthem for inspiration (found here: http://www.sesamestreet.org/parents/topicsandactivities/toolkits/challenges). Take the phrases and words that your child comes up with and turn them into a collage, using old magazines, stickers, paint, and doodling.
• Do This! During story time, ask your children how the characters are feeling throughout the book. Ask questions like “How can you tell that the character is feeling that way? Can you make a face that shows that feeling?”
• Do This! With older (6+) children, have a discussion about your values and ask your child what their values are. Explains what it means to have integrity, empathy, etc. in terms they can understand. Later, when you see your child demonstrating a value discussed, recognize your child for it by being as specific as possible. Make sure that your family rules are aligned with the values that you want your children to learn and possess.
• Write This! Keep a journal with your child. Together, you can keep track of feelings, strengths, interests, values, and the activities that encouraged these feelings/behaviors. Let them draw, write, and scribble -- whatever is right for them. After they complete an entry, talk to your child about it and give them time to reflect.
• Read This! Mindful Monkey, Happy Panda helps children explore the idea of mindfulness and being present in a fun and inviting way. Read the book together, and talk about ways that you can be present and mindful in your daily activities!
• Do This! Plan a self-care day for you and your child! Children, just like adults, need downtime to wind down and re-energize. For many children, having busy schedules is a big stressor and self-care time can make all the difference.
• Include “creative/free time” to the children’s routine. Children learn self-management and delay of gratification when they have time to be free and choose any activity they wish.
• Do This! Teach your child to be a self-advocate by having them order for themselves at a restaurant.
• Do This! Set a challenge for your child. Do they want to learn how to walk, ride a bike, how to jump-rope, how to play an instrument? Whatever the task is, assist your child with goal setting and teach them about resilience and the importance of not giving up.
• Do This! Play a role playing game together. Create and make up different scenarios where they would have to manage their decisions or emotions. Take turns being different characters in the role play. For example, “pretend your mommy is working on the computer and you want her to play with you, what would you say?” or “pretend your friend took told you to steal the pen off your teachers desk, what would you say?”
3. Social Awareness
• Read This! Explore the story Yoko with your child, and have a discussion about the importance of appreciating and respecting other cultures. You can take your child on a parent-child lunch date for sushi to discuss the book, and give your child the experience of trying something new in relation to the book.
• Do This! Give your child a simple job, such as feeding the dog, for the summer. Research suggests that children who learn responsibility also learn altruism and caring. Make sure to recognize that your child has done a good job and point out how it benefits others in the family.
• Do This! Go through old toys and DVDs and let your child help you select pieces that they have outgrown. Reach out to local children’s hospitals and shelters, and have your child help you decorate and deliver a box to donate to them. Your child will feel included and empowered!
• Do this! At the grocery store look around at the customers and wonder with your child what they think those around you might be feeling or thinking,
• Do this! (8+) With a group of friends or family create a circle ask questions about things they may feel while in a social setting. For example, have you ever been embarrased to join in when you first meet new people? If the people in the group agree the enter the circle. This way everyone in the group understands they are not the only ones that feel that way. It is a “me too” moment.
4. Relationship Skills
• Read This! Read Frog and Toad are Friends, or any other book in this series by Arnold Lobel with your child. Talk about Frog and Toad’s relationship and discuss what makes a good friend (for example: helpful, thoughtful, supportive, generous, good listener, etc). This activity emphasizes the importance of being kind, sharing, and working together to solve problems.
• Create This! Create “friend coupons” and have your child pass them out during the summer. When they make friends at the playground, camp, church, or any other locations, they can learn how to create and maintain friendships. You can also role-play passing out the coupons. Click Here to download a MomsRising Friends Coupon that you and your children can use!
• Do this! Give your child an opportunity to build respectful and trusting relationships with their peers by encouraging them to work in teams when appropriate (for example “Can you both please put the toys away before helping me make a snack?”), and also helping children to see other points of view, which can encourage empathy (“Sam is sad because his mom had to leave”).
• Do this! Children between 5-7 years old are developing and learning about social norms. Make sure to empathize with them how sometimes it can be difficult to share and play what your friends want you to play. Include in your day with them these simple questions, “did a friend make you mad today? Did a friend hurt your heart today? Did you have a hard time being a friend today? When they answer walk them through it. That way you can help them with specific information for their day to day with friends
5. Responsible Decision Making
• Read This! Read one or more of the Berenstain Bears books with your child. Each book in this series addresses an everyday situation or experience that young children may encounter, and the characters navigate their way to resolve the situation using different paths. These books are perfect for young readers to think about decisions and consequences. Parents can talk about each part of the book by asking the child how they might respond to each situation.
• Explore This! Encourage problem-solving using Sesame Street’s “Breathe, Think, Do” method. This method encourage children to take three deep breaths before continuing to resolve a problem, and then thinking of a plan, and then following through. This exercise teaches patience and mindfulness. You can install the “Breathe, Think, Do” app onto your phone to have tools available on the go to assist with problem solving, and give the little ones a chance to help Sesame Street monsters solve their problems, too!
• Do This! Have a family movie night, and talk with your child about the characters’ choices. Were the choices responsible? Ethical? Create a list of reasons why someone might make a particular decision (is it fair, is it wrong, is it safe, etc.). Discuss how a character in the movie came to their decision.
What are you reading this Summer with your kids? Remember to share photos on Facebook or Twitter using the #MomsReading hashtag!