Social and Emotional Learning 101 for Parents (and Teachers!)

Parents, we feel you. It’s not easy to constantly worry about whether our children will grow up strong, healthy and to be a good person. Survival in this world is not enough – we need them to thrive. Unfortunately there is no winning formula to guarantee this. However, one of the tools we can equip our children with is social and emotional learning, to develop skills like empathy, communication and self-management. Such are the soft skills that will tide them through their daily lives and foster meaningful relationships. 

What is social and emotional learning? 

Besides your arts and sciences, social and emotional learning (SEL for short) is another area of education that will come with a bunch of benefits for children. SEL is simply the process of honing and applying social and emotional skills. Someone well-developed in this aspect will be

  • Self-aware and have a positive self-concept
  • Able to self-regulate their emotions and behaviors
  • More socially aware
  • Better at managing relationships
  • More responsible at decision making
  • Able to set and achieve goals

SEL is not a subject that can be memorised (cue “the mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell…”) but rather, has to be integrated into an entire educational curriculum. For example, the mindset and habit of patience, taking turns and sharing can be cultivated through a shared activity with a classmate, such as pair-work to create arts and crafts. 

Of course, SEL does not end after the school bell rings. To develop social and emotional skills into lasting habits, parents, schools and children’s entire surrounding environment need to band together. 


Types of SEL skills

According to CASEL (Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning), five core competencies make up SEL. These five competencies can be taught at all ages and across various cultural contexts. 

  • Self-awareness

This involves understanding one’s own emotions, strengths and areas of improvement. Self-aware people are better able to set achievable goals based on their own assessment of their capabilities. Related skills include identifying one’s emotions, expressing one’s needs, honesty with self and others and being willing to grow. 

  • Self-management

Controlling oneself in various social situations is self-management. This pertains to emotions, thoughts and actions. Children with this skill demonstrate intrinsic motivation, emotional control and proactivity in setting personal goals. Related skills include taking initiative, self-motivation, planning and organizing. 

  • Social awareness

This is essentially treating people the way you would like to be treated. By empathizing with others, children with this skill are more compassionate, understanding and supportive. 

  • Responsible decision-making

This is a tough one! As adults, even we do not always demonstrate this skill all the time. As it suggests, this skill involves evaluating the consequences of one’s actions before making choices. Related skills include staying curious and constantly questioning, critical thinking, risk analysis and foresight. 

  • Relationship skills

Interpersonal interactions are unavoidable in life. Relationship skills are hence crucial in helping children form and maintain supportive relationships to navigate life. Related skills include effective communication, leadership traits, maintaining positive relationships and good teamwork. 


What does SEL mean for children and parents? 

SEL interventions that target the five competencies have been shown to increase children’s academic performance by 11 percentile points. Students in SEL programmes also demonstrated improved classroom behavior and social outcomes. 

It is therefore crucial to begin SEL in early childhood within the home and school. Parents and teachers can have a think about their behavioral cues, language and teaching practices to incorporate SEL into their children’s everyday. For example, keeping an open channel of communication between parents and the school can ensure both sides keep track of children’s performance, development and co-create better ways to learn. 

A smart school management system could come into play to make parents’ and schools’ lives easier. It is the nervous system for schools,  around which other technologies are incorporated. It is, in fact, a master plan to regulate administrative operations and facilitate better communications with parents  to increase the productivity of the school. Contact LittleLives to find out more about an efficient system to help with school communications and operations!