Module 4: Promoting Mental Health in Early Childhood


Learning Skills with Family

The first and perhaps most potent learning experiences about how people should treat one another come from observing and participating in interactions within the family.

Parents teach children how to treat others by modeling positive social skills and praising children for appropriate interactions. Siblings are a major influence on children’s social development. Interactions with siblings provide extensive opportunities for conversing, fantasy play, sharing, negotiating, learning to manage aggression, and comparing gender roles and personal interests and skills.

Questions to Ask

  • How does your child act around family members?
  • Tell me how family members show affection for one another. How do they show anger?
  • How does your child get along with her siblings?
  • How does your child communicate what she wants? How she feels?

Provider Tips

  • Discuss that when parents are openly affectionate with each other, they help their child learn that the parents’ relationship is different from the parent-child relationship.
  • Explore family dynamics and help parents recognize their feelings for each child to make them aware of how their feelings could affect sibling relationships.
  • Using the guidance listed below, discuss ways parents can model and teach good socialization skills for their children.

Guidance for Parents

  • Your child learns a lot just by watching the things you do and the way you behave. You are teaching her social skills each time you:
    • Express affection with family members
    • Show concern and caring for others
    • Listen to others and show respect
    • Exhibit self-control
    • Talk about your feelings
    • Use conflict resolution skills and handle anger constructively
    • Negotiate agreements with your partner
  • Create opportunities for your family to share time together. Eat meals together as often as possible. Go for walks, play board games, cook meals together, read to one another, visit parks or museums, or listen to music and dance.
  • By interacting with each other, your children will learn how to treat and care for others. Encourage your children to listen to, be patient with, and show respect for one another. Teach them to share and take turns. Give them chores and tasks to work on together. Praise them for cooperating and for showing sensitivity to the feelings of others.
  • Regular family meetings create opportunities for your family to communicate, solve problems together, and deal with any complaints siblings may have about one another.
  • If your child doesn’t have siblings, you can provide opportunities for her to learn social skills by:
    • Arranging frequent play dates
    • Spending time with extended family
    • Becoming involved in community groups and activities
Resources for Families

Faber A, Mazlish E. 1999. How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk (20th anniversary ed., updated). New York, NY: Avon Books.

Fraiberg SH. 1996. The Magic Years: Understanding and Handling the Problems of Early Childhood. New York, NY: Scribner.

Helping Your Child Develop Empathy

Family Meetings PDF

Pickhardt CE. 1997. Keys to Parenting the Only Child. Hauppauge, NY: Barron’s Educational Series.

Copyright Georgetown University Georgtown University Early Childhood