Families play an essential role in children’s social and emotional development. By understanding the specific goals of Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) and showing children how we as adults use the skills effectively, children can more readily develop the social and emotional skills they need to learn and have to be successful in life. Modeling and using the skills is one way that they can be taught.
Five social emotional competencies align with the three Illinois Social and Emotional Learning goals that are addressed in our schools:
- self-awareness (IL SEL Goal 1)
- self management (IL SEL Goal 1)
- social awareness (IL SEL Goal 2)
- relationship skills (IL SEL Goal 2)
- responsible decision-making (IL SEL Goal 3)
What does it mean to model skills?
- Remember that your actions trump your words if they do not align!
- Use teachable moments as opportunities to talk about or show your social and emotional skills or even lapses. For example, if you lose patience in traffic, take a moment to express frustration in words instead of honking the horn. Take a breath, and acknowledge it.
- When showing your child how you think about something or solve a problem, break it down into a few steps and “think out loud” so your child can see your process.
- Remember that parents don’t have to have all of the answers and we aren’t right all of the time. It’s fine to say, “I don’t know,” if you don’t. And it’s always a good idea to apologize when you make a mistake or inadvertently hurt someone.
- Be a caring, supportive environment
- Have positive relationships between children and adults and siblings
Under each skill below, find ways that you can model it for your children at home. Your example matters! Start with one skill area from the list below and try out a strategy or two at a time. The five skills are inter-related and will connect to one another. See if you notice growth in your child’s use of a concept. If he needs more support, talk with his teacher for more ideas. Learn more about what to expect at specific ages and how to support social and emotional development in general.
Literature is a very powerful and safe lens through which SEL can be discussed because it allows children to talk about someone else’s feelings and problems. A series of 2 ½- 5 min. videos provides children’s book titles and discussion points to address self-awareness, self management, social awareness, relationship skills and responsible decision-making, and bullying.
SELF-AWARENESS (IL SEL Goal 1):
Recognizing one’s emotions and values as well as one’s strengths and challenges
Name that feeling: Help your child learn to articulate his feelings by naming yours. Get beyond the common words for feelings (happy, glad, sad, mad, scared) and let your child know when you are frustrated or annoyed, content or satisfied, or worried and stressed. Talk about how the feeling affects your body. You can even relate these words to what you might do to change your feelings, such as calm yourself or clear your head. Speak in first person (use I-messages).
Show how hard work and practice help us overcome challenges: Be aware of the power of a growth mindset to help us all develop the learning muscle we need to be engaged and achieve. Read more about growth mindsets and learn ways you can try it at home.
SELF-MANAGEMENT (IL SEL Goal 1):
Managing emotions and behaviors to achieve one’s goals
Model self-control. This can be done by pausing before you act; taking that deep breath; acknowledging that you are upset and need to calm down.
Make your child wait, a little, with the knowledge that you will tend to his needs as soon as you can. In today’s world, many things are instantaneous due to technology, but in fact everyone needs to know how to wait. Let your child wait a few minutes if you are occupied with something else, but show him that he can be confident that you will help him when you can. Young children in school need to wait frequently to get help from the teacher, have their snacks, etc. It is possible for your child to do this at home as well.
Let your child live with the consequences of his mistakes. It’s fine to help your child out several times when he forgets something (like lunch), but don’t become his default problem-solver! Suggest strategies to remember lunch so he learns ways to be responsible for this daily task. When lunch is forgotten, let him articulate solutions on his own. (See problem-solving process below). Do not do for your child what he can do for himself.
Show your children how you make plans for things and persist to get them done. Think out load so they can see how you break down a project into smaller parts. Talk about the different steps in reaching a goal, for example, learning a new sport or an art: determine your goal, find a teacher, guide, or resource, attend classes consistently to build strength, practice, note progress, and keep getting better! Show your child how you manage feeling discouraged sometimes and keep your eye on your goal.
SOCIAL AWARENESS (IL SEL Goal 2):
Showing understanding and empathy of others
Affirm your child’s feelings with empathy and acceptance. How you relate to your child will show him how to relate to others.
Listen. This takes patience, but it is very important to let children talk and take the time to listen to them, even if the message is difficult. Your active listening validates their feelings, ability to communicate, and your relationship.
Consider the feelings of others in real life situations and in books, movies, TV shows, and talk about them. Discussing fiction and news are ideal ways to talk about how people relate to one another.
Talk about what it might be like to be in “someone else's shoes.” This is especially useful when there is an argument underway and compromise is needed.
RELATIONSHIP SKILLS (IL SEL Goal 2):
Forming positive relationships, working in teams, and dealing effectively with conflict
Recognize that nothing matters as much as maintaining a positive relationship with your child. This means finding your balance between connection and discipline, providing warmth as well as limits. Many excellent parenting books are available about building healthy parent-child relationships.
Make time daily to talk one-on-one with your child about his day, feelings, interests, or issues. Consciously avoid using this time to talk about tasks and to-dos (unless these are an issue for your child); stay focused on your child and his experience that day.
Model healthy relationships with your spouse, friends and family. Communicate thoughtfully, listen to others, and cooperate and compromise when it’s needed.
Teach your child skills for face-to-face, phone, and online communications. Be attentive to eye contact and manners, and mindful of misunderstandings that can arise in the use of technology.
Show your child how to apologize by doing it yourself when appropriate. We all make mistakes.
- What’s the problem?
- How do you feel about it?
- What are some solutions?
- What might be the consequences of using each of these solutions?
- Which solutions might be the best to try?
- Try one and see how it works!
- If it doesn’t solve the problem, try another solution.
RESPONSIBLE DECISION-MAKING (IL SEL Goal 3):
Making ethical, constructive choices about personal and social behavior
Practice making decisions based on respect, positive social norms, and consequences. The metaphor of ripples on a pond can be a useful reference in talking with your child about how their choices affect others. Our actions usually affect many others, directly or indirectly, and have the potential to change the culture of a family, neighborhood, school, or community. Empower children to effect positive change by finding ways to contribute to your family, neighborhood, school, and/or religious organization.
Show your child that you uphold the law (even if you don’t entirely agree with it). Adolescents by nature push the limits, so be prepared for many conversations about the reasons for laws. How you live within the law will be very instructive, so consider your own examples re: seatbelt laws, texting while driving, and alcohol use, for example.
Give children a few choices and as they show that they make good decisions, expand the choices. Vice versa, remove options when poor choices are made. Nothing teaches decision-making like consistent consequences.
Be aware of brain development and the limitations of the immature brain when compromised by social pressure. Monitor your adolescent’s activities and be aware of his circle of friends. Know their parents. Read more about the evolving adolescent brain.