Why Social and Emotional Learning Begins at Home

by Jan Dennis

Whether it’s building a strong vocabulary or solving mathematical equations, a child’s life revolves around learning. However, some lessons go beyond the chalkboard — especially those that involve their social and emotional well-being.

From helping them understand their emotions to setting the right goals and showing empathy to others, as a parent, you want your child to be equipped with the necessary social and emotional skills through social-emotional learning (SEL). And to ensure that your child develops them, it’s important to remember that learning always starts at home.

Why You Need to Teach Your Child Social-Emotional Learning

Your child is in a special stage where they’re filled with genuine curiosity. And at home, they’re presented with opportunities to learn more about the world. For instance, if you catch your child watching the news, they shouldn’t only be informed about the current events, but also understand the social and emotional aspects of the issues. This, in turn, will help them gain value-adding perspectives on life that they’ll take to the classroom, playground, and into the future. In fact, researchers from the University of Washington have found that social and emotional skills are key components of a child’s educational success and future interpersonal adjustment, which is why parents need to instill these values early on.

However, while all parents want what’s best for their children, this is much easier said than done. And despite the wealth of books, research, and well-meaning relatives and friends, it’s normal to still feel a little lost as a parent — especially with regard to SEL — and that’s ok. Angie Walston, a Certified Family Life Educator and a professor of human development and family studies at Maryville University, highlights the importance of being proactive and compassionate towards children and the unique ways they are learning about the world around them. She teaches the 3-Cs: compassionate, consistent, and calibrating, and this approach also provides parents with a strong foundation in fostering their child’s SEL, as they tap into their own social and emotional skills.

How You Can Teach Social-Emotional Learning at Home

But, how exactly can you help your child cultivate their SEL? Here are some key ways to help you at home.

Create a Routine for Them
To help your child get in touch with social and emotional beings, they must be in a safe and stable environment. To this end, you should establish a routine for them. Child therapist Genevieve von Lob told the Huff Post that consistency and structure are especially calming for children. A balanced and healthy routine will make them feel safe and give them confidence as you teach them SEL.

Encourage Them to Help Out
Teaching your child about the important issues around them is crucial for their SEL. Whether it’s teaching them how to donate old toys or taking them to a soup kitchen, encouraging them to help others will not only help them strengthen their self-awareness, but also teach them to see the world from the perspective of others.

Partner with Your Child’s School

As Community Matters founder Rick Phillips previously shared here, it’s equally important that your child is in a safe environment at school to foster their SEL. That being said, you should get in touch with their teachers and ask how they’re helping your child develop their social and emotional skills. This way, you can further enhance their development, while ensuring consistency for their learning.

Jan Dennis is a social psychologist with a fascination for family and early childhood. When she’s not working, Jan enjoys urban gardening and spending time with her son.