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Social & Emotional Development

What Is the Link Between Health and Social & Emotional Development?

The quality of children's early experiences has a direct effect on their feelings, behavior, and ability to relate to others. When children have consistent, nurturing, and responsive relationships with caregivers, including both family and staff, they form secure attachments and positive relationships.

Staff support children's social and emotional development by:

  • Developing strong and secure relationships
  • Helping to support a strong sense of self
  • Encouraging them to manage their emotions and express themselves
  • Helping them feel capable as learners
  • Minimizing the impacts of toxic stress

Teaching them to manage their feelings, behaviors, and follow rules and routines.

Examples of School Readiness Goals

The following table includes sample goals developed by the Early Head Start National Resource Center and the National Center on Quality Teaching and Learning. Review the links to health services in the third column and find strategies to accomplish your Approaches to Learning school readiness goals. If program school readiness goals address topics that are different from the examples offered, find links to health services here.

Early Head Start Head Start Links to Health Services
Goal 1: Children will develop and engage in positive relationships and interactions with adults. Goal 1: Children will engage in and maintain positive adult-child relationships and interactions. Family Health Literacy
  • Provide engaging, empowering, and action-oriented health education programs that are designed for and with families to support child development in culturally and linguistically responsive and meaningful ways.
  • Promote relationship-based competencies for all staff to support school readiness connections between a child's home and the program.
Mental Health
  • Help children develop positive social behaviors that help them engage in learning.
  • Use behavioral screening results to support children's social and emotional development and approaches to learning.
  • Develop a mental health education program for families and staff to encourage supportive, nurturing relationships.
Safety and Injury Prevention
  • Create and maintain safe environments that engage children and support their healthy development.
  • Identify and report suspected child abuse and neglect to protect children from maltreatment.
Services to Pregnant Women and Expectant Families
  • Support healthy beginnings for infants and their families to promote nurturing relationships that sustain learning throughout a child's life.
  • Capitalize on partnerships to expand school readiness and health activities that support access to and engagement in learning.
Goal 2: Children will begin to develop personal relationships with peers. Goal 2: Children will engage in and maintain positive peer relationships.
Goal 3: Children will begin to develop and demonstrate control over some of their feelings and behaviors (self-regulation). Goal 3: Children will display levels of attention, emotional regulation, and behavior in the classroom that are appropriate to the situation and supports available.
Goal 4: Children will begin to learn to internalize rules, routines, and directions. Goal 4: Children will learn and internalize (follow) classroom rules, routines, and directions.
Goal 5: Children will begin to develop and demonstrate a positive sense of self, competence, and an identity that is rooted in their family and culture. Goal 5: All children will develop and display a sense of self-confidence in their abilities, and a strong identity that is rooted in their family and culture.


1Knitzer, J., & J. Lefkowitz, J. (2005). Resources to promote social and emotional health and school readiness in young children and families: A community guide. New York: National Center for Children in Poverty, Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health. Retrieved from http://www.nccp.org/publications/pdf/text_648.pdf

2Shonkoff, J. P., & Phillips, D. A. (Eds.) (2000). From neurons to neighborhoods: The science of early childhood development. Washington: National Academy Press.

Last Updated: July 30, 2018