Social and Emotional Development During the Holidays

At Inside SEL, our mission is to act as a megaphone, amplifying the great work being done by leaders in education and social-emotional learning across the country.

Throughout the past few years, we have been incredibly fortunate to help build and interact with an amazing community of educators, administrators, researchers, parents, students, and other proponents of whole child educationMany of our readers will write to us with their own stories and opinions about the future of education, and we view it as part of our goal to help share high-impact stories with as wide of an audience as possible.

The following piece was authored by Charlie Fletcher, a freelance writer living in the pacific northwest who has a variety of interests including sociology, politics, business, education, health, and more.


The holiday season is an exciting time for everyone. For kids, especially, there’s a certain magic to it that can’t be ignored. While the season itself can be busy with all the fun and parties and presents, it’s still important to foster social and emotional development in your children.

It’s easy to get lost in the consumerism and hustle and bustle of the season. By taking a little extra time to focus on what’s really important, you can help your children to grow in many ways.

A good place to start is by improving your own emotional intelligence. Be more self-aware this season and consider what you want to improve in your life. Practice gratitude every day– there’s no better time of year to be reminded of it.

The more in tune you are with your own social and emotional development, the easier it will be to encourage your children’s development. Let’s dive deeper into how you can do that, so the holidays remain meaningful for the next generation.

Acts of Kindness

It’s the season for giving, and your children will learn by doing. Talking about how good it feels to give back is one thing, but your children need to experience it for themselves to truly understand things like empathy and selflessness. Small acts of kindness can go a long way. Try getting your kids involved by:

  • Baking cookies together for a local food bank
  • Donating old coats to a homeless shelter
  • Participating in a Toys for Tots program
  • Donating toys they no longer use to a thrift store

Chances are, your child isn’t too young to know that there are people in the world less fortunate than they are. Letting them lend a helping hand will boost their emotional development from an early age, and foster a giving attitude that can last a lifetime.

Focusing On The Moment

This time of year, your schedule might look pretty full. Between holiday parties, shopping, community events, and family get-togethers, it’s easy to feel a little overwhelmed.

Your children can feel the same way.

While it can be fun to participate in as many holiday events as possible, don’t give in at the expense of your children’s emotional or social well-being. Instead, teach them to focus on the present and enjoy each moment, rather than constantly looking toward the “next thing”. You can make that easier on yourself and your kids by:

  • Setting boundaries
  • Learning to say “no” to every event
  • Planning rest breaks
  • Finding outlets for your children’s energy
  • Making sure they know they can confide in you

Don’t assume that just because your children are young that they won’t get stressed over the season. By encouraging them to slow down and enjoy things as they come, you’ll help to reduce those stress levels and foster a greater sense of gratitude.

Keeping Traditions Alive

Holiday traditions are what provide everyone with feelings of nostalgia this time of year. While some traditions are meant to be flexible, others stand the test of time for a reason.

We’re entering a holiday season where the COVID-19 pandemic is still a factor in almost everyone’s lives. Your kids may have been able to go back to school this year, but there’s no denying the pandemic has had an impact on their social and emotional development. Since they’ll likely be out of school for a couple of weeks for the holiday break, continuing to teach both areas of development is crucial so they can stay on track.

Traditions can help with that.

Even the simplest traditions, like baking cookies as a family, singing carols, or opening gifts a certain way can teach your children the importance of family bonding and the value of important rituals.

You can even start new holiday traditions with your kids, like reading specific books or going to your favorite cafe for a cup of hot chocolate. Don’t just talk to them about traditions, show them why they are important.

Just because it’s a busy holiday season doesn’t mean your kids need to slide back on their social and emotional development. Keep these ideas in mind as you celebrate. Not only can they help your children, but you mind find that they’ll be a reminder for you when it comes to what the holidays are all about.

Categories SEL in K-12

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