Social Emotional Learning Begins at Home

Social Emotional Learning Begins at Home
Posted on 05/04/2023

Social Emotional Learning Begins at Home
By: Christina McCaw
Director of Social Emotional Learning, Behavior and Intervention

As we prepare for the end of the school year, summer break and make plans to spend time with family and friends, we are reminded of the importance of taking time to take care of ourselves, continue working on our goals for the year and be mindful of the importance of the time we spend with our loved ones. Our daily schedules are packed with life’s daily obligations and some days we rush through not realizing the time we have spent mindlessly completing each task of the day. Add in the distraction of cell phones and electronics and we spend even more time not focusing on the people around us. 

The Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL) defines Social Emotional Learning (SEL) as, “the process through which children and adults acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.” CASEL has identified five social and emotional areas that we develop as children (and adults) in all aspects of life. 

Self-awareness—having a realistic perception of one’s own values, interests, and strengths, and being able to recognize one’s own emotions. It is important to help children, teens, and adults identify how they are feeling. Recognizing their emotions and creating healthy ways to handle emotions in a positive manner builds self-awareness. Using their strengths and interests to find hobbies will combat boredom and now may be the perfect time to learn something new. 

Self-management—how well one manages emotions, impulses, and stress, and whether one is able to establish and achieve goals and exercise self-discipline. Creating and keeping a routine or schedule is important to maintain focus on the things we can control, as so much of what is happening around us is out of our immediate control. Work with your family to develop routines that support your basic needs as well as your social-emotional needs.

Social awareness—the ability to take the perspective of and empathize with someone else and to appreciate and respect diversity. Be mindful and respectful of each other’s feelings and experiences. Practicing compassion, showing others that we recognize the emotions and perspectives they hold, increases social awareness. At home, you can help practice this skill. If a child is reading a book, for example, ask them to describe how a character feels and thinks in a particular scene and have them describe how they know that. 

Relationship skills—the ability to participate in healthy, cooperative, and caring relationships, and effectively resolve conflicts. Finding positive ways to continue to connect with friends is important for kids and adults.

Responsible decision-making—the ability to recognize and generate good choices, evaluate the likely consequences of actions, and take responsibility for one’s decisions.  Teach children to look at the pros and cons while working through the decision-making process and reflecting on their decisions. Allowing students the opportunity to make simple decisions will help grow independence.

Our children are looking to us to learn how to handle daily stressors, manage emotions, set goals, and have healthy relationships.  The question is:  How do we teach, model and support our children in growing the needed SEL life skills? It all begins at home! 

Begin with creating a connection with your children. One of the best ways to do that is to turn off distractions and have a set time to give your children some undivided attention.  Some find that around the kitchen table at dinner time is a perfect way to build those connections, creating a time and space for sharing, listening and problem solving. Others find a time before bed to connect, talk about the day and plan for tomorrow. Whenever you decide the right time for your family, begin with listening, your children will learn that you are present and care. 

Parents and caregivers can help children build a kind and caring self-identity, which will help the child build positive relationships.  When giving feedback (praise or corrections) be specific. For example, “Thank you for clearing the toys from the living room floor, that was helpful.” or “It is kind when you share your new toy with your brother (sister).” Upon a correction, “I’m sorry you are upset, but it is time to turn the tv off, it is time to go.” or “It is not nice to hit your sister, hands are for holding, hugging or putting in your pockets.”  Sometimes we need to give children an alternative to the actions they are exhibiting. 

Allowing children to have emotions and an understanding that emotions are perfectly normal to feel. Children need to learn to name the emotion they are feeling - upset, sad, angry, happy, excited and then find ways to constructively handle those emotions. Through feedback that names the emotion your child is experiencing and then giving solutions or helping the child problem solve will give that child the skills to help emotionally regulate. 

Social emotional learning goes hand in hand with academic learning. In school, children are expected to work in groups and with peers to complete projects and classroom tasks. Building positive relationships at home carry over to the classrooms and help students problem solve when presented with difficult tasks. In many classrooms, students set goals for different academic achievements, ask your student what their goals are and how they are working to achieve them.  Parents and teachers work together to build social emotional skills in children. Beginning at home, expanding and using those skills at school build positive relationships, goals, and emotional regulation.