The significance of social and emotional development is seen in every area of a child's life. A child will have a strong foundation for later development if he or she can manage personal feelings, understand others' feelings and needs, and interact positively with others. Differences in social and emotional development result from a child's inborn temperament, cultural influences, disabilities, behaviors modeled by adults, the level of security felt in a child's relationships with adults, and the opportunities provided for social interaction.
Five-year-olds can manage feelings and social situations with greater independence. They might decide on their own to go to another room to calm down, or try strategies like negotiation and compromise to resolve a conflict before seeking adult help. They also have improved skills for forming and maintaining friendships with adults and other children. Being accepted by "the group" is becoming more and more important.
Continues to expand his or her circle of trusted adults. At the same time, maintains a closeness to a few special people (e.g., says, "I love my teacher, Mrs. Benotti!").
Gains self-esteem from feeling capable and demonstrating new skills (e.g., says, "I know how to read this!"). Is increasingly aware of his or her own characteristics and skills.
Uses more complex language to express his or her understanding of feelings and their causes (e.g., says, "I sort of want to try riding on that, but I'm sort of scared, too.").
Uses physical, imaginative, and cognitive resources to comfort self (e.g., goes to his or her room voluntarily when upset) and to control the expression of emotion; however, he or she continues to need adult guidance in this area.
Enjoys interacting with other children and adults. Has developed a broader repertoire of social entry skills (e.g., suggests something to do together, joins in an existing activity, shares a snack). Engages in more complex and sustained cooperative play, including pretend play and simple games with rules (e.g., says, "How about if we play 'Candyland.' I'll give out the pieces.").
Continues to establish and maintain friendships with other children. Seeks others' acceptance and friendship (e.g., says, "We're buddies, right?"). May join a group to exclude others.
Uses a wider array of words or actions to demonstrate awareness, understanding, and concern for what others are feeling (e.g., goes over to a child whose block building has fallen down and says, "Don't worry, Manuel. I'll help you build it up again.").
Uses a broader repertoire of strategies, including negotiation and compromise, to resolve conflicts before seeking adult help (e.g., says, "I have a great idea, Henry! You be the bear, and I will be the lion. Then we can switch!"). Still has difficulty at times.