Are you familiar with Social and Emotional Learning, also known as SEL?
According to McGraw Hill Education, “A growing body of research identifies successful social and emotional learning (SEL) as a key element for advancing student achievement in school and beyond. This emerging learning practice is being integrated in classrooms and schools, as well as in the home to help students learn how to manage emotions, set positive goals, feel empathy toward others and engage in positive relationships.”
While all schools, obviously, strive to create an environment in which students reach their full potential, there’s obviously more to a successful education than math and science.
SEL can help kids increase self-awareness and impulse control as well as help them make responsible decisions, both in and out of the classroom.
In other words, social and emotional learning sets kids up for lifelong success at managing their emotions.
Naturally, this is something parents want.
The question is, how can parents encourage SEL at home?
Spend Time Talking to Your Kids
It seems so simple, but in our plugged-in, overly-busy world, it can be harder than you think. However, quality one-on-one time is one of the major building blocks that Amy McCready teaches in her Positive Parenting Solutions course.
Create a secure connection with your kids and make quality one-on-one time a daily priority, until your kids know they can count on that time. (As Amy explains in her course, this one-on-one time is the key to unlocking power struggles and other behavioral issues… not to mention the fact that it encourages Social and Emotional Learning.)
Encourage Kids to Express Emotions
I will never forgot the passage in the book Permission to Parent, where a fourth-grade boy tells the author, Dr. Robin Berman, “I have noticed that the boys who cry the most when they are hurt have parents who always said, ‘You’re fine, get up, that didn’t really hurt.’ I think that if the mom had just hugged them, their crying would have stopped a long time ago.”
While I think that most parents in that situation probably had good intentions, maybe they thought that if they don’t dwell on the hurt that the child will move on more quickly, kids might not see it the same way.
Rather than dismiss your child’s feelings, ask him or her to explain them.
If your child is upset, ask ‘What’s wrong?’ rather than just telling them to stop crying. Help them to respond to their feelings in a positive and productive way and teach and model positive ways of handling stress and negative emotions, such as mindfulness practices.
Model the Behavior You Want to See
I don’t have to tell you, Mom and Dad, how often your kids model their own behavior after you. So make sure you’re modeling the right behavior.
This may mean apologizing when you’re in the wrong, including apologizing to your own kids. My two-year-old doesn’t get it, yet, but I still apologize to him when I lose my cool. I want him to see that we treat others with respect and kindness, but that everyone makes mistakes and when that happens, an apology goes a long way.
Maurice Elias, co-author of two books on emotionally intelligent parenting, says parents should remember the “24K Golden Rule: We should always think about the impact of our actions on kids, and be as particular in what we do with our kids as we would want others to be with our kids.”
Nurture Your Child’s Self-Esteem
A child with a strong sense of self is happier, more adjusted and does better in school.
However, you don’t build your child’s self-esteem by heaping on praise. And certainly not false praise. (So please toss the participation trophy out the window.)
The best way to build self-esteem is to show your kids what they’re capable of, which means giving them work to do.
Give your child responsibilities, allow him or her to make age-appropriate choices and show your appreciation when the job is done well.
Dr. Berman points out, “Parents today think that they can pass out self-esteem like dessert. They sprinkle it on their children, thinking that it is the essential spice in the recipe for cooking secure kids. Research shows that the inverse is true. The -est words can be harmful on many levels… A landmark study by the psychologist Carol Dweck shows that overpraised kids are less resilient and more risk adverse.”
Now, Dr. Berman isn’t suggesting that you stop praising your kids altogether. It’s constant praise that’s the problem. Overpraising doesn’t foster self-esteem.
Praise works best when it’s specific and you’re praising the effort rather than the outcome. Teach your kids that trying hard matters, regardless of the results.
For some other specific examples of how to encourage social and emotional learning, check out this video:
Final Thoughts on Social and Emotional Learning
The impact that social and emotional learning can have on your kids’ futures is significant.
It helps them learn to manage emotions, feel empathy towards others, engage in positive relationships, increase self-awareness and make responsible decisions.
Fortunately, SEL is something that can be taught. Some ways to encourage SEL are:
- Spend time with your kids
- Encourage your kids to express their emotions
- Model the behavior that you want to see
- Nurture your child’s self-esteem
What are you doing to encourage SEL? We would love to hear from you. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below!