Parent Tips to Support Your Child’s Social Emotional Learning
Here in the Counselors’ office, we support students in various ways, from individual meetings about specific issues to helping students with social and communication skills in small groups or dropping in on class-wide conversations about managing emotions and getting along with others. One of the critical elements of our work with all students is social and emotional learning (SEL), which is also part of our taught curriculum at Stamford: we use the evidence-based Second Step program in PP through eighth grade.
Though it may sound complex, SEL is a massive part of navigating our daily interactions with others. Social and emotional learning is the process through which children and adults
- understand and manage emotions
- set and achieve positive goals
- feel and show empathy for others
- establish and maintain positive relationships
- make responsible decisions.
What does this mean for school counselors?
SEL is the development of the whole child, which helps us promote students’ awareness, skills, & self-esteem through problem-solving, social skills, and self-regulation. SEL teaches skills to promote resilience in the future. We work with students on increasing focus, dealing with distracting thoughts, and developing emotional regulation to help them at home, in school, and future relationships with others.
What can parents do at home to support social and emotional learning?
We’re glad you asked! Primarily due to the disruption of the pandemic and online learning, we see a lot of students needing extra support as they develop their social and problem-solving skills. It often takes collective awareness and help from home and school for children to develop regular habits and coping skills when they encounter challenges.
Tip #1: Normalize language around emotions and give opportunities for your child to verbalize what they are feeling.
When you help your child label their feelings, you also provide them with ways to deal with their emotions. It is sometimes tempting to brush off children’s problems and feelings. This is especially true if we have had a bad day, are busy, or the same issues and feelings keep coming up. But children need to know that we are going to listen to them. Active listening shows children that we care about their feelings, understand their needs, and accept how they feel. If we dismiss children and their problems, they are less likely to bring up issues in the future, especially when they need to make essential choices about things like alcohol, drugs, and sexual behaviors.
Tip #2: Be an Active Listener.
Step 1: Listen to your child without distractions
Step 2: Get on their level, make eye contact
Step 3: Repeat back to your child about how they feel about the situation.
(Show your child they are seen and heard. Validating is not the same as agreeing.)
Step 4: Empower, encourage and brainstorm together the next steps if needed.
You don’t always have to agree with your child’s feelings: when you actively listen, your role is to reflect or repeat to your child how you hear or see they are feeling. This lets your child know you care and are interested. If you disagree with their feeling, you can say things like “I see,” “I hear you,” or “Uh-huh.” When we tell a child to stop feeling a certain way or to stop worrying, we are not helping them learn how to deal with their feelings. Usually, there is not an easy ‘solution.’ The power is in the connection. And you are helping your child build self-awareness, self-regulation, and problem-solving skills.
Tip #3: Model Healthy Emotional Regulation.
Children learn from the adults around them, for better or for worse! Sometimes the best way to teach an SEL lesson is to show your child through your behaviors.
- Keep yourself well-regulated. It’s essential to be aware of your own emotions, body language, tone of voice, behavior, etc.
- Stay calm and model healthy ways to cope in stressful situations while addressing your child’s behavior. If this is hard for you: read these tips.
- Openly share your feelings with your child throughout the day – both positive and negative emotions. This continues to help children develop a vocabulary around emotions.
- You can model overcoming frustrations and challenges, not only the positive side! Say things like, “I’m feeling disappointed. My coffee is cold,” or “I tripped in the store this morning, it made me feel embarrassed, but I took a deep breath and kept shopping”
Staying calm and helping children handle their emotions and develop social skills is a long and challenging process. As children’s needs change during each developmental period, parents may need different resources and support. We are always happy to chat with parents about how you can support your child’s social-emotional learning at home – please feel free to reach out!
Ms. Jeni & Ms. Mia
Elementary School Counselors