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    SEL For All Ages: An Important Element At Home and in the Classroom

    September 23, 2019
    by Teresa Cornett |

    mother and son reading

    You don’t have to look far to discover that social and emotional learning (SEL) and the whole-child are buzzwords in education today. Have you ever wondered why SEL is talked about so much more now than in the past?  We are becoming increasingly aware that social and emotional health is just as important (if not more so) than physical health in supporting the whole child. Treatment for mental health is more acceptable, available, and common today than it was twenty years ago. But, students still need more. Successful development academically and socially go hand-in-hand. If a student is not developing on-target socially and emotionally, they may struggle to achieve academically.

    At birth, a child is born with billions of neurons in the brain that begin forming connections immediately. The connections that are used become stronger while the connections that are not, disappear. The experiences during childhood pave the way for a student’s lifelong success. The more we practice a skill, the stronger it becomes. Social and emotional skills are no different, they must be intentionally taught like any other skill.

    We know that parents often sit down with their children to do homework at night. How can we support social and emotional “homework”? Encourage parents to sit down and eat dinner together as a family and ask children about their day. Share research with your families about the positive effects of parent involvement and bonding. 

    Here are some additional ways students of all ages can strengthen social and emotional skills:

    For young children:

    • Games are important to teach turn taking, healthy competition, patience, fair play, how to be good winners and losers, and how to react to social situations.
    • Teach children to name their emotions. This can be done with activities like picture cards, Play-Doh, or drawing in the sandbox. The key is to acknowledge a child’s feelings. 
    • Consider using stuffed animals or puppets to teach social skills that are needed in real-life situations. This is often easier for a child to do if pretending to be “someone else”.
    • Read books about emotions during class. There are plenty from which to select. This not only helps with social and emotional development but with reading skills. Ask your students questions about the story or ask them to change the ending.

    For elementary children:

    • Be sure to encourage partner work as well as group work in classes. This teaches cooperation and teamwork.  Encourage your students to work with others they might not usually partner with.
    • Teach children how to handle their emotions. Create a plan for what a child should do when feeling overwhelmed, this may include a place to go. Once the child feels safe and calm, then you can discuss the behavior.
    • Role playing is another good way to help children prepare for various social situations. Give the child a scenario and provide modeling of appropriate behavior.   
    • Practice social approach skills. For example, what would you say or do if you see a group of friends talking and you want to join their conversation? Make it a fun game for the whole class. 

    For older children:

    • Encourage teachers to greet students at the door. They may very well be the first person to say “good morning” to that student and this can help identify each student's mood.
    • Use trust-building activities like blindfold navigation, helium stick, or tug of war. Team-building exercises such as scavenger hunts, flag football, or egg toss can also be beneficial in strengthening relationships.
    • Have the guidance counselor or guest speakers visit your school to talk about topics such as mental health and coping mechanisms.
    • Keep an open dialogue about social media and be alert to any safety concerns.

    The most important thing for parents to remember is to remain calm, promote kindness, and that they don't have to do it all alone! School districts connect families with resources and programs that make it easier for parents to prioritize their child's social-emotional learning. Peachjar helps school districts harness the valuable resources that their community has to offer. To learn more about how Peachjar works, visit www.peachjar.com.

    Categories: School Districts