Self-regulation refers to the ability to control emotions and social behaviour in the interest of engagement and participation in both social interactions and independent work. It encompasses the regulation of one’s own emotions both in social contexts and non-social contexts (such as delayed gratification). This construct is also strongly related to executive function, specifically inhibitory control (Liew, 2012).
Social cognition captures children’s abilities to think about and comprehend social relationships with others, recognize the feelings of others, and, if required, take actions that are meant to make others feel better. Social cognition encompasses empathy – children’s abilities to read others’ emotions and respond appropriately – as well as prosocial behaviour that includes helping others who may be in distress. Understanding the feelings of oneself and others includes the ability to (1) comprehend basic emotions (e.g. happiness, sadness and anger) and how these emotions are expressed, as well as their antecedents, causes and consequences; (2) recognize that emotions are complex (e.g. two individuals can feel two different emotions in response to the same event); and (3) distinguish rules for how to display basic and more complex emotions (e.g. shame or guilt). Accurate interpretation of the feelings of others provides important information about social situations and what constitutes appropriate responses.
Social competence, or how well children develop and maintain relationships with peers and adults, is a construct that includes the ability to coexist and interact with others in a competent manner – essentially getting along with other children and adults, and being part of a social group. Social competence is an important developmental skill that children start learning from the moment they are born and which forms the foundation for a social human being.
Emotional well-being refers to aspects of optimal mental health that, if not evident in a child at this early stage, could predict more serious mental health problems, such as anxiety – a potential sign of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD); sadness, a potential precursor of depression; or the inability to control aggressive impulses – a precursor of oppositional and conduct disorders.