Help them learn social skills
676 weeks remaining…
This phase has remarkable potential. School represents a major cultural shift for this phase. Beginning school for a significant portion of their week is a major social, intellectual, and emotional transition. This is the phase when unfiltered words will make you laugh, school drop-off makes you cry, and life becomes a stage when your child wants to know if they have your attention. Sometimes conversation seems like a run-on sentence that just keeps on talking.
When formal education starts, so does competition for adult attention. At school, church, or the soccer field, one thing is true: your child wants your undivided attention. They want your focus. They want your approval. So give it to them freely and generously, as much as possible. Kids thrive on routine and predictability, while they also benefit from unstructured and spontaneous play.
One of the best gifts you can give to your child in this phase is education, practice, and coaching in social skills. They need to learn social skills by trial-and-error, so it’s important to be less of a “helicopter parent” on the playground and more of a coach after-the-fact, debriefing what happened and how it made your child feel.
HOW YOUR CHILD IS DEVELOPING IN THIS PHASE
- Physically: They start to lose teeth, can ride a bicycle or roller skate, and can draw a person with a body. They need 10-12 hours of sleep a night and often grow taller (2-3 inches) and gain weight.
- Mentally: They can focus on one activity for 5-15 minutes. They recognize names of numbers/shapes/colors. They know the difference between need/want and real/pretend. They can't logically interpret cause and effect. They are concrete thinkers (and will be this way until about 5th grade).
- Emotionally: They tend to be optimistic, fanatical about the truth, and express feelings through play and art (versus words). They are sensitive to harsh criticism/tone/body language. They benefit from relaxation techniques (e.g. taking a deep breath).
- Socially: They want to please and help adults. They need guidance taking turns and losing well. They may show some gender preferences for playmates. They have a hard time asking for help.
THE PRIMARY QUESTION YOUR CHILD IS ASKING IN THIS PHASE
“Can you show me how to connect with other people?”
YOUR BEST NEXT STEP DURING THIS PHASE
Help your child develop socially. Refer to this “Social Skills” document and identify a few skills that you can use consistently to teach, redirect, role play, and reinforce your child’s social development.
Positive social interactions rely heavily on a person’s ability to regulate their emotions. For more tips and resources to help your child identify and express their emotions in a healthy way, refer to the 3-year-old Phase.