Monday, April 4, 2022

Parenting Pointers: Supporting Your Child's Social and Emotional Development

 Across the country, educators, parents and businesses rallied on March 11 for the third Annual SEL Day in support of Social-Emotional Learning in American schools.

  • President and First Lady Biden recognized SEL Day and the importance of Social Emotional Learning with a White House proclamation. This signals to educators across the country that there is now support for SEL from the highest level
  • Proclamations also came from the governors of California, Delaware, Nevada, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Vermont.
  • More than 2,300 schools, districts, and organizations participated across all 50 states
  • Over 7 million views and more than 33,000 #SELday likes across social media
  • #SELday trended on Twitter for more than 5 hours on March 11th

National nonprofit EQuip Our Kids! hosted six online panels, five of which featured parents who are SEL experts describing the transformation in their own children from experiencing SEL in their schools. Panelists included:

  • Scarlett Lewis: Sandy Hook mom, Founder and Chief Movement Officer, Jesse Lewis Choose Love Movement
  • David Adams: CEO of The Urban Assembly, co-founder of SEL Day
  • Jennifer Miller: author of "Confident Parents, Confident Kids"
  • Michael Strambler, PhD.: Associate Professor at Yale University School of Medicine
  • Patricia Wilkinson: author of "Brain Stages: How to Raise Smart, Confident Kids and Have Fun Doing It"

As Scarlett Lewis noted during the event, Social-Emotional Learning provides "Incredible life skills like knowing how to have healthy and meaningful relationships and connections, manage our emotions, how to make responsible decisions, how to grow through difficulty."

You can watch all the sessions at the Equip Our Kids! YouTube playlist.

I had a chance to learn more in this interview.

Social-Emotional Learning, or SEL, has become more common in classroom settings - why is it important for schools to include elements of SEL in the classroom?

News stories and school board meetings increasingly feature discussions about SEL. It's an approach that teaches kids personal and interpersonal skills along with academics. Those skills could include goal setting, collaboration, decision making, and conflict resolution. Those types of skills are a major part of anyone's success in learning, relationships, and life. 

Only about one quarter of schools today include comprehensive SEL instruction as part of their curriculum. Research shows that including SEL in the curriculum raises academic achievement, lowers conduct problems, and creates a safer school climate and culture. 

Teaching and learning with SEL in mind is important because humans are primarily social and emotional beings. We're biologically wired for emotions and for being social. And if our social and emotional side is either neglected or overloaded, it distracts us from learning. 

It's akin to kids struggling to learn when they haven't had breakfast and they're hungry. We spend billions each year to provide school nutrition programs that overcome this barrier to learning. The same logic applies with kids who feel isolated, unsure, anxious, depressed, or fearful. It's hard to learn with such overwhelming distractions. 

While SEL might seem like a new concept, it's actually been researched and taught for decades. Multiple, rigorous studies prove the short-, medium-, and long-term benefits of teaching SEL. 

Why is it significant that President Biden recognized SEL Day?

March 11, 2022 marked the third annual SEL Day. It's a day to celebrate and highlight teaching kids the important life skills they'll need to learn effectively in school, perform well on the job, and relate well with others throughout life. 

This year was the first time that the President specifically and publicly recognized the value of SEL. It probably helps that the First Lady is a lifelong educator who's very familiar with SEL. 

The President's recognition is part of the broader alarm about the youth mental health crisis happening in the U.S. Even before the pandemic, our kids were struggling with mental health. Now, the U.S. Surgeon General, the Children's Hospital Association, and the American Academy of Pediatrics have all separately acknowledged the ongoing crisis for kids. The Surgeon General said that the crisis requires a "whole of society" response that includes expanding SEL in classrooms. 

The President and Congress have also included funding in pandemic response legislation to expand SEL in classrooms. SEL Day and the President's recognition helps motivate the three quarters of schools that are not including SEL in the curriculum to update their approach. 

How can parents support SEL at home, whether or not their schools are making specific efforts to address it?

There are multiple ways parents can support SEL at home. In fact, home is the primary place that kids can learn and practice social and emotional skills. 

The main thing is to be genuinely connected with your kids. Talk with them, play with them, enjoy your time with them. Accept that they are still learning how to be social and emotional people. Situations and feelings will be new for them–they're bound to have questions and make mistakes. That's part of any learning. 

Many books, games, and activities are available to help provide fun and structure to parent-child interactions. Some promote just the general joy of being together, like making music or crafts together. Others are more targeted to address specific concerns such as self-confidence, anxiety, depression, or bullying. EQuip Our Kids! offers a free, curated toolkit of high-quality resources drawn from reputable sources such as PBS, NBC, The Mother Company, Common Sense Media, and Khan Academy. 

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