Social and emotional skills are about managing feelings, managing friendships and solving problems. These are essential life skills that support wellbeing and positive mental health.
But what does social emotional learning have to do with learning and academic performance? Research has shown that a student’s learning is influenced by a range of social and emotional factors, and how well a student does at school is influenced by things such as:
- Their confidence in their abilities
- Their ability to manage their behaviour in school and in the classroom
- Ability to concentrate and organize themselves
- Problem-solving skills
- Relationships with teaching staff and with peers
- Capacity for taking into account another person’s needs
- Their understanding and acceptance of responsibilities.
Researchers also have found that students that have good social and emotional skills also achieve significantly higher academic results.
Parents play a critical role in guiding and supporting their child’s social and emotional development, and such skills only develop with practice. Everyday situations present lots of opportunities for children to learn and practise their skills for coping with emotions, managing relationships and solving problems.
So what can you do to help your children’s social and emotional development?
Encourage discussion of feelings at home.
Before we can learn how to control feelings, we first have to notice them. You can help your child notice feelings by noticing them yourself and giving them labels: sad, happy, worried, embarrassed, surprised, angry, etc. Giving feelings names helps to make them more manageable for children.
Model good behaviour and talk about everyday feelings
Talking with your child about what it’s like when you’re angry, sad or nervous helps them find ways to express feelings without having to act them out through negative behaviours. Kids learn how to behave by observing and imitating the behaviour of those around them, particularly adults. When you model positive ways of coping with strong feelings like anger, it helps children feel safe and shows them ways that they can manage strong feelings too. Some examples like: “I’m getting too angry now, and I need some time out to think about this.”
Manage BIG emotions
Children’s feelings are often intense. Experiencing rejection from their peers or not doing as well as they expected on a piece of homework can be upsetting but it shouldn’t be catastrophic. Parents can easily escalate their emotional response to match the child’s, and it’s important to notice if behaviour starts to mimic the child’s behaviour.
If we want kids to learn how to manage BIG emotions, we need to restrict our emotions too. We want our children to mimic our response when things don’t turn out the way that we want them to. It helps to think “I need to stay calm, as my child needs me to model calmness.” We then need to process and reflect on the situation with them by asking questions like:
“Is it really that bad in comparison to the bigger picture?”
“Will things be better tomorrow?”
“Have similar things happened before, and did they turn out okay at the end?”.
Remember, theres nothing wrong with kids having intense emotions that seem to be out of control, but it’s really helpful if the adult in the child’s life can model calmness and reflective behaviour when they come to us with their emotions out of control!
If you would like to discuss further parenting strategies, contact us for an appointment or contact Parentline on 13 22 89.