In the early childhood period, much is made of a child’s developmental milestones, and comparing these gains with similar aged children. “Has your child rolled from back to front yet? Is he crawling? Did she already string words together to make a sentence?” This common parental comparison extends to early academic skills, like beginning reading skills, identification of shapes and colors, early number concepts. However, recent studies show that it is actually a child’s social-emotional skills that have real staying power at this age – predicting well-being into said child’s adulthood!
So what exactly are social-emotional skills, and how can school help structure and build these for your elementary aged child? Social-emotional learning is considered to be an educational philosophy built on teaching children the skills necessary to understand their own and others emotions, control their impulses, and build relationships with others. School is a natural place to build these skills into the curriculum, and increasing numbers of districts are understanding the value of these “soft skills” over more rigorous academic knowledge, particularly for the early elementary ages.
Schools are filled with kids
This is an obvious one, but there are other kids in your child’s classroom, which means that your child will very quickly learn the importance of taking turns, cooperating, and sharing. Children in this developmental stage are learning the art of negotiation, problem solving, and reciprocity – not to mention options for imagination and perspective taking as a child creates a pretend world, and invites others to join them. Kids might have arguments with their peers too – and that’s ok! An adult’s temptation might be to problem-solve for the children, but allowing them to work it out (as appropriate) can offer a social-emotional learning experience. Of course if things escalate to potential harm, or bullying, an adult should intervene.
Schools are filled with teachers
This is another obvious one. Any parent who is also a teacher can tell you – a child sometimes will listen to another adult better than they will listen to their own mother or father. This is why many home-school parents choose a co-op approach, sharing the responsibility of teaching – and the lesson of listening to and respecting other adults and authority members. A child at this developmental age will quickly learn that they don’t agree with everything that an adult says – but an important social-emotional skill is learning how to disagree respectfully.
Schools are built on routines
This is a less obvious assistant to social-emotional learning. A child learns all skills best when he or she feels safe. School provides a predictable structure and familiar adults that a child can practice these necessary social-emotional skills. School provides a foundation for reading, writing, and math literacy, but it also provides a place where friendships to grow and develop, teachers encourage and support, and imagination can blossom.
A school consultation may be helpful when a school doesn’t recognize potential opportunities for social-emotional learning, or if your child has barriers to engaging and learning these skills. For more information on how school’s can help build your child’s social and emotional skills, contact us. We can help!