Back To School Special: Social and Emotional Learning

Social-and-Emotional-LearningAs our children settle back into their school routines, administrators around the country are considering which non-academic skills should be included in their yearly assessments. Since 2011, there has been an increased focus on social and emotional learning. According to Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning, social and emotional learning can be defined 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.”

In other words, these are skills like sharing, playing cooperatively, and effectively handling their own emotions. Children who do better at these tasks not only perform better academically, but they also have higher quality relationships.

Sounds important, right? Well, it is! But just because it is taught in schools, doesn’t mean it should be assessed or tested. As Angela Duckworth, who has made the term “Grit,” part of school lingo explains, “I do not think we should be doing this. It is a bad idea.” Her reasons are many, and include the fact that: 1) Not everyone agrees on what areas of social and emotional learning are the most important, and 2) These skills are hard to quantify. We’ll add a third reason: When schools focus too much on testing, the pressure associated with that task tends to reduce the quality of learning.

However, just because we don’t believe that schools need to start widespread testing of social and emotional learning, doesn’t mean that we wouldn’t like to see these skills being taught more frequently. Actually, the opposite is true! So, here are some tips that you can do at home to help your child learn these invaluable skills:

Teach By Example

How do you react when you become angry? Sad? Show your children that it is okay to have emotions, and that there are healthy ways to handle them. Let your kids see you taking time for yourself, so that you can be that much more present when you return. Remember what the flight attendants always say, “Put your own oxygen mask on first, before helping anyone else.”

Share Your Values

Help your children learn to be kind and compassionate. Encourage them when they express interest in helping others, especially when those others have nothing to offer in return. Teaching children to be kind to animals is also a great, (and fluffy!) way for children to learn empathy.

Focus On Conflict Resolution

Help your children learn non-violent ways of solving conflicts. Teach them to respect themselves and others, even during an argument. Introducing skills like breathing, meditation, and yoga can go a long way in helping kids keep their cool in challenging situations.

Help Children Develop An Internal Tool Kit

Most importantly, help your children understand that they have everything that they need inside of them to manage their own emotions. Even simple strategies like counting to ten, empower children to take control of what is happening inside those active little bodies.

If you would like to talk more about social and emotional learning, contact us. We are here to help!