We all value traits like composure, kindness, and communicativeness, but how does a person come to possess those traits? One way is through having an acute understanding of their own emotions. Social emotional learning is a way that many schools teach students to identify and express their emotions in a healthy, respectful way.
You might be curious about how you can support your child’s social emotional learning, or how you can augment your school’s programs at home. If that sounds like you, then keep reading as we get into how you can support your child’s emotional intelligence at home!
What Does SEL Mean in Education?
Social emotional learning refers to developing emotional skills such as self awareness, self control, and communication skills. Essentially, it aims to help students identify, understand, and manage their emotions in a healthy way. Its history dates back as far as the 1960s when it began at Yale, but it has been incorporated into classrooms across America more and more since then.
The skills taught through social emotional learning are crucial for success in all aspects of life; whether it be in school, at work, and in personal relationships, people with strong social and emotional skills are typically more successful.
What are the Benefits of Social Emotional Learning?
Social emotional learning has demonstrated a number of benefits, and while it’s common in the classroom, its benefits don’t end there. The emotional intelligence students gain from social emotional learning can help them succeed elsewhere in their lives. Some key benefits include things like:
Greater academic achievement
Development and cultivation of the ‘soft skills’ that are essential for in-demand jobs
Improved decision-making and problem-solving skills
Increased motivation, perseverance, and resilience.
Ways to Incorporate Social Emotional Learning at Home
It’s becoming increasingly common for schools to incorporate social emotional learning into their curriculum, especially since the pandemic disrupted many traditional learning formats. So how can you continue to support these efforts at home?
Fortunately, incorporating social emotional learning techniques and practices into life at home isn’t as daunting a task as you might expect. It will take dedication and work, but as we say in Haiti, ‘if you love the nut, you must also love the shell.’ Here are a few great ways you can encourage emotional intelligence by bringing social emotional learning home from the classroom.
Being creative or playing together can help your child learn about themselves, the world around them, and find new methods for communicating their emotions. Children have all the same emotions that we have, but less tools and experience expressing them.
The author Victor Hugo said that “music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent,” and engaging in creative acts like making music, art, or playing games can similarly help your child find new ways to express themselves and what they’re feeling.
Be a Model for Healthy Emotional Habits
One of the most essential parts of incorporating social emotional learning at home is ensuring that your child is having healthy emotional skills modeled for them. Here are some important things to keep in mind as you model these behaviors for your child:
Monitor your own feelings and stress levels: Your child can easily assess what you’re feeling, which can impact how they feel. Taking time to check in and take care of yourself is vital for your child as they develop emotional intelligence skills.
Ensure that you’re spending quality time with your child: This simple act, essential for supporting your child and cultivating connection, is more important now than ever. Many parents who are working remotely or on hybrid schedules are at home with their children more than ever before, although that doesn’t necessarily mean that time is spent connecting with them.
Model kindness and helpfulness: We all want our children to be kind individuals, but verbal encouragement only goes so far. Being a model for kindness and helpfulness sends a powerful and influential message to your child.
Think out loud: Thinking out loud can help demonstrate the process of managing emotions in real time. For example, if you’re looking for an article of clothing but can’t find it, you might say, “that’s frustrating, I really like that shirt. But I know it’ll turn up eventually, so I’m not going to worry about it.”
Listen Actively and Engage Your Child
Especially when our children are young, it’s easy for us to assume that we know how they’re feeling. But this isn’t always the case. Children have the same vast web of emotions that adults do—but they often lack the vocabulary or experience to specify or communicate those individual emotions.
Having genuine, respectful conversations that are based in seeking understanding can help tease out your child’s emotions. Frustration is neither sadness nor anger, but asking questions, listening intently, and providing guidance when it’s needed can help your child identify and understand more complex emotions.
Finally, when your child has identified and expressed their emotions, it’s essential to validate those feelings. Diminishing or trivializing your child’s emotions and experiences not only won’t accomplish much, but will also teach them that it’s not okay to feel those things. Validating your child’s emotions can help them learn to cope with feelings in a more healthy way.
Build a Routine and Consistency
Routine plays a big role in learning emotional intelligence. It takes time and repetition for children to understand, manage, and communicate the things they’re feeling, almost like the experience of breaking a bad habit.
Dedicating time every day for activities that help foster your child’s emotional intelligence is of vital importance for success. You might spend some of that time doing creative activities, reading, which often focuses on emotions, especially for younger children, or on activities like talking about their feelings, journaling, or anything else that helps them express their emotions.
Social Emotional Learning Can Set Your Child up for Success
There are many ways you can help your child, but one that will have an incredible impact that can put them on the road to success in all aspects of their lives is cultivating emotional intelligence. Social emotional learning provides a framework for doing so within a school’s curriculum, and when you support that at home, your child can benefit greatly.
Thanks for Reading!
I’m Altagracia Pierre-Outerbridge, and this is The Way I See It, a blog about parenting, life in NYC, and much more. If you like what you’re reading, sign up for my email list so you don’t miss the next blog, and check out some of my related content: