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Second Grade Social Development


You may have thought your child was social before, but you haven't seen anything yet! Second grade is the year when children truly become social creatures. They become immersed in their school lives, withdrawing from adults and forming circles of friends. For children, this is very exciting but also comes with some stress. For parents, it means that a whole new set of parenting skills need mastering. Read on to find out what happens in the social lives of second graders and how you can help your kid through this important developmental stage.

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They take sides.

Second graders know the importance of having friends, and they want to decide who’s a friend and who’s not. Some kids this age might refer to non-friends as “enemies.” Having strong friendships gives them self-confidence, while being excluded can be a tough pill to swallow.

What you should do: Teach your child to respect all his peers, even if they aren’t all part of his inner circle. Ask him how he would feel if he were excluded, which should teach a lesson in empathy. When you have a chance to talk to the teacher, don’t just ask about reading and math; ask how your kid treats others.

They put others down and call each other names.

If you thought the mean-spirited social atmosphere of first grade would subside, think again. Put-downs and name-calling are all too common in second grade. They’re a child’s best effort to communicate in the heat of the moment. Kids this age don’t express themselves well and rarely think of better ways to resolve their conflicts.

What you should do: When your child puts others down, ask him what he really meant to say. This should make him stop and think about what he actually wanted to accomplish, and he’ll figure out how to solve issues without resorting to insults.

They withdraw from adults.

Second graders are immersed in their social life at school. They are striving to be independent, which means they want to rely less on adults. They often complain that teachers and other adults are mean or treat them unfairly.

What you should do: Don’t panic. This is an important part of your child’s development. If he doesn’t want to hug and kiss when you say goodbye, play it cool. Second graders are especially sensitive to being embarrassed in front of their friends.

Boys are friends with boys and girls are friends with girls.

This trend really starts in first grade and it continues in second grade. Girls form many friendships, but they are often fickle. Boys have smaller groups of friends, but their friendships generally last longer.

What you should do: Don’t do much. Don’t worry if your child still has a best friend of the opposite sex. The only time to worry is if your child stops trying to make friends altogether.

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Crushes and “cooties” are everyday issues.

Children want to know what makes boys and girls different, personally and physically. This curiosity, as well as a heightened awareness of friendships, results in second graders having attractions or revulsions to members of the opposite sex.

What you should do: Talk, talk, talk. Realize that crushes feel real to children, even though they may seem silly to you, and be sensitive if your child is heartbroken. Establishing trust now might pay off in later years, when relationships take center stage.

They start understanding other people’s point of view.

Second grade marks a rise in reasoning abilities, which helps children listen with a more open ear. They may still be egocentric and selfish, but they’re smart enough now to recognize other people’s opinions.

What you should do: Use this time in your child’s life to start having in-depth conversations, which will improve his speaking and listening skills.

They can empathize with people.

Not all second graders, but some, show signs of empathy. If a child sees a classmate hurt himself on the playground, he may wince in pain. If he sees someone being picked on, he’ll feel sorry him. And if he sees someone laughing or showing great pleasure, he’ll feel happy.

What you should do: Smile. Your little one is growing up. Kids who empathize generally make strong friendships and are well-liked by peers.

Want to take your child's courtesy further? Read our article on teaching social graces to second graders.