- Learning new vocabulary to verbalize emotions
- Allowing for talk time in classrooms
- Playing games to build community
- Buddying up with a younger or older class
If the answer is yes, your child has been learning and using social-emotional skills.
The Case for SEL
Educators have long known that students who can make eye contact, read facial expressions, and interpret their classmate’s tone of voice were often successful in school. Researchers have been studying social-emotional learning (SEL) since the 1970s, and in 1995, psychologist Daniel Goleman, PhD., argued that emotional intelligence can be taught in schools and should be taught with purpose and intent.
What are social-emotional skills, and why are they needed? According to Maurice Elias, a psychology professor at Rutgers University, SEL is a process through which we learn to recognize and manage emotions, care about others, make good decisions, behave ethically and responsibly, develop positive relationships, and avoid negative behaviors. Studies also indicate students with high social-emotional characteristics are often more likely to graduate and are more employable.
Graland uses a variety of programs and curricula, such as Responsive ClassroomTM, to help students develop social-emotional skills and communicate effectively with their peers. Lower School classes start the day with a Morning Meeting where students greet each other by name. Students create community guidelines such as “Respect each other,” and “Take care of yourself,” instead of a long list of dos and don’ts. These broad rules foster ethical thinking, and students learn to apply general behavior expectations to different situations.
How to Reinforce and Foster SEL at Home
Of course, learning and practicing social-emotional skills continues after the school day ends. Families can use everyday interactions to help their children to become aware of their interactions with peers. Here are some strategies parents can use at home to foster and reinforce SEL.
Talk with children about their emotions and the emotions you experience. What does it feel like to be frustrated or worried? Model using “I” statements and explain how you worked through times that were difficult and stayed calm when you were angry.
What are the “trigger situations” in your family? Is it during homework when several children want one-on-one time? Or right before bedtime, and children are struggling to brush teeth and get into pajamas? As a family, discuss how this causes stress in the family and brainstorm ways to solve the problem.
Let your children see you apologize to others. Most children see their parents argue, but not what happens after the argument is over. Model the next steps in front of your children, apologizing and working through the issue.
Encourage helping others and sharing. Talk about their role in helping others. Graland offers ways for families to provide service through outreach opportunities, such as the VOA Snowflake Party or helping at a food bank. Check the Graland calendar for these opportunities.
As with any important life skill, using effective social and emotional behavior takes time and practice. Even adults do not get it “right” every time. By working together, parents and the school community can guide students into becoming kind friends, engaged citizens, and thoughtful leaders.