You are hereSkip Navigation Links

On MY Way

Social Development

Social Competencies
What’s happening? How can I tell? How can I help?
Children are increasingly capable of feeling and demonstrating empathy.
  • Middle years children are becoming less and less self-centred.
  • They can sense the feelings and needs of others and react to other people’s distress.
  • They are sensitive to the needs of others, and consider these needs even in pursuit of their own interests.
  • They are beginning to understand about discrimination that is based on race and gender.
  • Be a role model. Show your children that you care deeply about the feelings of others.
  • Discuss bullying with them, with an emphasis on how it would feel to be bullied.
  • Encourage them to think about social exclusion and social justice issues and how it impacts them as well as their peers.
They are getting better at understanding the perspectives of others.
  • Middle years children are beginning to realize that people may have their own views, desires and emotions.
  • They are starting to understand how their words and behaviour can affect others.
  • They can take into account other people’s intentions when making decisions or relating to others.
  • They understand the consequences of cyberbullying and other kinds of inappropriate online behaviour.
  • Let them know that different perspectives are a normal part of life. Emphasize conflict resolution skills, as opposed to "us and them" attitudes.
  • Talk to children about how their actions can affect others’ thoughts and feelings.
  • Talk to them about the needs, feelings and desires of friends and family members.
  • Explain to them about how easy it can be to hurt or scare someone online.
They are developing better conflict management skills.
  • Children are learning strategies for how to manage and resolve conflicts with others.
  • They are aware of, and can appreciate, different cultural behavioural norms and expectations.
  • They understand the different forms of bullying, and are aware of their negative impact.
  • They are beginning to behave appropriately in various social situations, and beginning to exhibit appropriate behaviours for maintaining positive relationships.
  • As always, be a role model. Use your own actions and those of other caring adults to show children what positive social behaviour and positive conflict resolution can look like.
  • Teach them conflict resolution skills tailored to their needs and level of development.
  • If you hear someone saying that bullying is "just a stage," explain that it won’t be unless the child doing the bullying is supported in learning how to stop.
  • Discuss ways that children can prevent bullying and victimization, and how they can intervene when they occur.
  • Discuss electronic bullying with them, and explore ways of preventing it.
Social Connectedness
What’s happening? How can I tell? How can I help?
Children are developing a sense of belonging to groups and communities.
  • They interact positively, in a range of contexts, with friends, older and younger students, and adults.
  • They can identify a range of groups, including cultural groups, to which they, their family members and friends belong.
  • They are learning to work in teams in order to complete activities within a set timeframe.
  • Encourage children to join in different kinds of groups, and participate in different types of team activities.
  • Always emphasize to them the importance of connecting with other people, being productive and making a contribution to society.
  • Attend cultural events, or social events for families with special needs children, so that special needs children and their families can socialize in a supportive and informal atmosphere.
They are becoming aware of, and responding to, social norms and justice.
  • Middle years children are beginning to appreciate common society values such as fairness, equity and inclusion, tolerance, understanding and respect.
  • They have begun to understand their own and other people’s rights and responsibilities.
  • They are beginning to question rules which they believe are unfair, and make suggestions about improving the rules.
  • They have begun to understand people’s different needs, and are using that understanding to resolve conflicts fairly.
  • Discuss topics like ethics, politics and religion with children.
  • Help them learn how to stand up for their own and other people’s beliefs and values.
  • Talk to them about family, social and community responsibility.
They are learning to respect diversity and different contexts.
  • Children have become aware that different people have differences in their cultural practices, and in the way they dress, eat, greet one another and in their social norms.
  • They have begun to appreciate both the similarities and differences between individuals and groups, specifically language, cultural and religious groups.
  • They understand and value social inclusion, racial and cultural diversity, sexual and gender diversity and ability.
  • Try to ensure that children feel as if they belong in whatever groups or contexts they find themselves in.
  • Talk to them about the importance of belonging, and how important belonging is to other people in other groups.
  • Have discussions about the dignity of all people and diversity and inclusion as core values.
  • Be a role model to children in terms of how you deal with, and talk about, other groups and cultures.
They are becoming socially responsible.
  • Children have begun to understand that to participate in society, they need to be aware of their rights and responsibilities.
  • They have learned to contribute and share responsibility.
  • They participate in civic-minded activities at home and school, such as recycling, composting, and taking responsibility for resources.
  • They are exploring ways in which they and others can work to improve their community and environment.
  • Model social inclusion and support diversity.
  • Be a role model to children in terms of how you deal with, and talk about, other groups and cultures.
  • Support equity and inclusion, in whatever social groups or contexts they participate in.
  • Have discussions about the dignity of all people, and equity and inclusion as core values.
  • Talk with them about how they can support equity and inclusion.
Relationships with Family and Friends
What’s happening? How can I tell? How can I help?
They have begun to develop autonomy from the family, but still need strong support.

Early Middle Years:

  • Children are developing an identity independent from their parents/caregivers.
  • They are spending more and more time with peers, other adults and in activities outside the home.

Later Middle Years:

  • They have an increased desire and readiness for greater autonomy and independence.
  • They are expressing attitudes and beliefs that are different from those of their parents/caregivers.
  • They want more freedom, responsibilities and rights.
  • Provide guidance that is warm and safe, but also firm and structured, with consistent rules and high expectations about behaviour and personal conduct.
  • Do activities together as a family or extended family to keep children engaged:
    • Consider traditional or cultural activities.
    • Go on family walks or road trips to explore new places together.
  • Create a safe environment in which children can openly discuss emotions, feelings and concerns.
  • Encourage children in independent problem-solving, critical thinking and proactive exploration of ideas.
  • As they mature, give them increasing responsibility, autonomy and leadership (e.g., maintain a chore chart).
  • Start teaching children about financial responsibility from a young age by setting up a bank account for them.
  • Balance your desire to supervise them with the need to encourage their growing desire to explore relationships outside the home.
  • Talk with them about who they can go to if they have a problem they need help with. Include various contexts including home and school.
They are developing close, important friendships.
  • Children are beginning to form more intimate friendships.
  • They have begun to display appropriate behaviours for maintaining positive relationships.
  • Their sense of self and self-worth is now partly associated with group values and norms.
  • They give greater priority to social activities with peers, peer acceptance and their own appearance.
  • Try to teach children to value respectful, reciprocal friendships.
  • Encourage them to always be mindful of their values and ethics, and keep the lines of communication open so children will confide in parents when their values are challenged or they need help.
  • Discuss their friends with them, in the context of what it is to be a good friend.
  • Talk to them about the role of emotions in interpersonal relationships.
  • Monitor their friendships and interaction with peers as much as you can.
They are participating in both small and larger peer groups.
  • They are developing a sense of being a part of larger networks of children, friends and acquaintances.
  • They have diverse groups of friends.
  • They are able to discuss their various groups of friends and how they fit in with them.
  • Talk to children about group dynamics.
  • Support their exploration of different types of friends, and groups of friends.
  • Friendships are very important. If your children have trouble making friends, try to place them in situations, such as sports or other afterschool activities, in which they will interact with other children.
They are developing the foundations for healthy romantic relationships.

Early Middle Years:

  • Children are increasingly aware of gender identity.
  • They are developing high quality friendships, and are accepted in a peer group, mainly with the same sex.
  • Some are beginning to have interactions with the opposite sex, and have a greater awareness of romantic relationships.

Later Middle Years:

  • They are starting to have romantic interests.
  • They understand romantic relationships and what makes them different from friendships.
  • Some enter into "boyfriend/girlfriend" relationships, often within a larger peer group.
  • They are participating in, and becoming more skilled in, mixed-gender peer groups.
  • Model healthy relationship behaviour for them — show them how important respect and kindness are in relationships between people.
  • Make sure that they are getting relationship and sexual education.
  • Talk to them about romantic relationships, and ask about their feelings and experiences.
  • Talk to them about consent, peer pressure and dating violence.
  • Make sure they know to talk to an adult if they are aware of, or part of, an inappropriate, unhealthy or abusive relationship.
  • Remain open-minded to children’s self-identity and gender fluidity.