Some children are social butterflies, but for many socialising in a new environment can be overwhelming and overstimulating. As a caregiver, this can a source of anxiety. Of course you want your child to be calm and happy, but it can also be stressful trying to help them cope in an unfamiliar environment. Some kids will become quiet and shut down, while others will have a full-on tantrum because they are struggling to regulate. Ultimately, children are just like us – but as adults, we have learned how to better regulate our emotions and navigate social situations.
The team at Slumberkins have created the guide “What is Social and Emotional Learning and Why is it Important?” which gives us insight into how we can help our children navigate big feelings and circumstances. They have generously allowed us to share their expertise on what Social and Emotional Learning is, and how you can use it to benefit your child in social situations.
What is Social and Emotional Learning and Why is it Important?
What is social and emotional learning, exactly? In its simplest form, social emotional learning (SEL) is involves lessons that children (and adults) can use to:
- Understand their own emotions
- Show empathy towards others
- Communicate more effectively
- Build positive relationships
- Make decisions that positively impact themselves and others
Social emotional learning has become popular in many school curricula, from kindergarten through high school. Educators that incorporate social emotional skills into their lesson plans often focus on helping students manage and overcome daily challenges so that they’re more likely to succeed academically, socially, and emotionally.
That sounds fantastic, right? What’s more—you can get a jumpstart on an SEL program before they’re even in kindergarten! Starting from infancy, into toddlerhood, and beyond, you can encourage the foundation of age-appropriate SEL skills from home, such as:
- Expressing what your child wants or needs to their caregivers
- Learning to form healthy relationships
- Regulating their emotions (within reason)
- Playing with other children
- Relating to others
How SEL impacts your child’s socialisation skills
Before diving into how SEL can help with socialisation, it is critical to recognize that all families and familial environments are unique from one another. While a school setting may allow some children to thrive socially, other kids may not have the same experience or have access to the same experience. Socialising with others and thriving in a social environment comes naturally to some children. They look forward to making friends on the first day of school and don’t look back when their caregivers drop them off.
On the opposite spectrum, some children may find themselves feeling shy or uncomfortable in social situations, whether it’s their first day at summer camp or they’re in a small group in class and aren’t comfortable speaking up. It’s important to recognize your child’s sense of socialisation in different settings so you can identify ways to support them and build connections that make them comfortable.
When it comes to social emotional learning in early education, there are various frameworks that parents and educators can follow to help children with socialisation. The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) created one of the most widely used frameworks, which focuses on teaching children the following five key skills that help with socialisation:
- Relationship skills – Relationship skills include the abilities you learn to create and maintain healthy relationships. Common relationship skills your children may learn in the classroom (and at home) include communicating clearly, actively listening, collaborating with groups, and asking for help or helping others when needed.
- Responsible decision-making skills – This skill revolves around being able to make logical and constructive choices. Children learn to factor whether or not their possible solutions are safe, whether they’re ethical, and whether they’ll have positive or negative consequences based on those choices.
- Social awareness skills – Being socially aware includes understanding the perspectives of others and empathizing with them. In the case of your little one, this typically consists of their friends, teachers, other adults, and people of different races or cultural backgrounds. SEL teaches them to appreciate diversity, be open-minded to others, and be respectful.
- Self-awareness skills – This skill relates to your child’s understanding of their thoughts and emotions and how they impact their behaviour. With SEL, they can learn to identify their feelings, recognize their personal strengths and gain self-confidence.
- Self-management skills – Once your little one has learned to understand their thoughts and emotions, they can work towards controlling them to help achieve their personal goals and aspirations. Self-management skills they learn may include managing their stress levels, practicing self-discipline, learning organizational skills, and participating in goal setting.