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OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — Share. Play fair. Say you’re sorry. Those of just some of the things you may have learned in kindergarten or before.
New research shows your child’s social and emotional skills in kindergarten are a strong predictor of success in early adulthood.

In three short weeks, Kira Wajcman will be a kindergartner.

“I’m really excited for her to go and explore and be in social situations,” said her mother, Sara Wajcman.

Penn State researchers followed 800 children. Those who had good emotional and social skills such as listening, sharing and being helpful in kindergarten were more likely to earn a college degree and have a full-time job by age 25. They were less likely to be substance abusers or be in trouble with the law.

“Its importance cannot be overstated,” said Susan Pinne, the director of the Trauma Smart program at Crittenton Children’s Center, part of Saint Luke’s Health System.

Pinne says social and emotional skills make it much easier to focus on learning.

“The first step in developing social-emotional skills in your children is to be sure you’re practicing those yourself,” said Pinne.

Also, tune in to your child’s emotional needs.

“If someone hurts her feelings, we talk about it and what we can do the next time,” said Wajcman.

Understand that all feelings are okay even if behaviors are not.

“When children exhibit behaviors,those have a purpose and they have a reason, and usually the root of those is in emotion,” said Pinne.

Provide stable and predictable routines and environment, and take care of yourself.

“We try to live giving lives and loving lives and all of that so hopefully ,she naturally, you know, picked up on that,” said Wajcman.

And it should mean success for Kira in school and in life.

The study is in the American Journal of Public Health. Pinne says you shouldn’t think your kindergartner is doomed to failure if her social skills are not strong. It’s never too late to learn them.