Social Emotional Learning begins at home

Social Emotional Learning begins at home
Posted on 01/09/2019

From Christina McCaw, Director of Social Emotional Learning


As we have spent time over the holiday break with family and friends, we are reminded of the importance of taking time to also care for ourselves, set new goals for a new year, and be mindful of the importance of the time we spend with our loved ones. Our schedules are jam 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.

Our children are looking to us to learn how to handle daily stressors, manage emotions, set goals, and have healthy relationships. The Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL) defines Social Emotional Learning 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.”  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 sitting around the kitchen table at dinner time as 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, talking about the day and planning 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 is 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.

We should allow 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, a child will develop the skills to help emotionally regulate.

Social emotional learning (SEL) 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 the 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 and expanding and using those skills at school build positive relationships, goals, and emotional regulation.