When it comes to the education of young children, development and learning opportunities do not end (or even begin) with traditional classroom studies. In fact, while book studies are certainly important, they are, by far, not the only learning process children need to be exposed to in order to obtain a well-rounded childhood development. Today, more and more emphasis is being placed on nourishing a child’s social and emotional learning process to boost essentially every other learning process they encounter.
What Is SEL (Social and Emotional Learning)?
According to Edutopia.org, “Social and emotional learning (SEL) provides a foundation for safe and positive learning, and enhances students’ ability to succeed in school, careers, and life.” By encouraging a healthy social engagement from children and outlining positive behaviors, SEL promotes a strong sense of self confidence, perpetuates positive attitudes toward all avenues of learning, and also gives way to improved social actions such as understanding, kindness, and collaboration.
The basis of SEL focuses on helping children develop more core attributes that will work in tandem with virtually every life experience they encounter. Essentially, SEL works by teaching children to effectively work together while having the skills to not only believe in their own abilities, but to also encourage and understand the abilities of those around them.
With SEL, successful emotional development is centered around helping children achieve not only a positive self-image, but also arming them with the ability to positively and effectively maneuver through life’s challenges. To accomplish this, SEL focuses on the following emotional skills:
- Self-Cognizance. This process involves helping children to thoroughly understand their own emotions, including how these emotions are linked to their thoughts, beliefs, and actions. By teaching children how to recognize these internal relations, as well as harness their own unique strengths, kids learn to develop a healthy level of confidence and self-worth.
- Self-Control. Expanding on self-cognizance, self-control is focused on helping children learn to manage their emotions and find appropriate reactions for their behaviors. Be it reining in impulses or learning to stay on task to achieve a goal, self-control is about taking their emotional understanding to the next level by mastering their reactions to promote positive behaviors and outcomes.
- Being Responsible. Taking emotional development one step further, SEL gives children the big picture by making them aware of the consequences of their actions for negative behaviors, as well as provides constructive pathways to more positive outcomes. This involves helping children to consider not only their own emotions and abilities, but also those of others around them, in order to effectively evaluate appropriate actions across a multitude of differences.
The second aspect of SEL, social development, expands on the personal emotional development of children by casting a wider net to include learning how to build healthy relationships, curbing negative behaviors, and being socially aware of the diversities of others. By providing examples and pathways to both empathize, as well as communicate, with others, children gain a broader perspective on life experiences and are able to improve their overall learning capacity.
When combined, SEL is a critical part of a child’s development because it not only arms them with critical thinking skills, self-confidence, and essential communication techniques, but it also encourages an overall positive outlook on both healthy relationships as well as a deep sense of commitment to learning and connection with others. Social and emotional learning is the foundation for a more engaged learning experience that will last a lifetime.