A growing body of research suggests that helping children to develop good social and emotional skills early in life makes a big difference in their long-term health and well-being. According to Daniel Goleman, author of “Emotional Intelligence”, he says that through family life, “we learn how to feel about ourselves and how others will react to our feelings; how to think about these feelings and what choices we have in reacting’ how to read and express hopes and fears.” Therefore, Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) first takes place at home. When parents are able to interact with their children by helping them to work through feelings constructively and engage in respectful and caring relationships, children will then be able to navigate emotional challenges such as a disappointment, hurt or anger successfully.
Besides enrolling your children for Dolphin Kids’ Social-Emotional-Cognitive (SEC) programs, here are 5 strategies which you can consider doing on a regular basis to help improve your child’s SEL. These suggestions are also not an exhaustive list, and some may require advance thought and planning to put into action. Begin with one item and add on more as you gain comfort and confidence with using these strategies.
Providing children with opportunities to use their voices and make decisions are great ways to boost your child’s autonomy and confidence. It teaches them what it means to build respect, cooperate and develop their own problem-solving skills. Avoid overwhelming them with too many choices and make certain choices “rituals” where they get to choose consistently., e.g., What do you want to do on Saturday morning? Go to the park or the library? Get them involved in fixing problems and learn to trust that your child may be able to find a good solution to the problem with some careful consideration., e.g.,If there are books all over your child’s bedroom floor, ask her how she thinks the floor could stay clear.
Apologizing does not mean that you forget whatever your child did that was upsetting. Actually, it means that you clarify that some of what you said was hurtful and had to do with your own frustration. “It’s not whether you make a mistake, it’s how you handle that mistake”. Parents’ ability to acknowledge mistakes and accept responsibility for actions is imperative in helping their children to do the same. An effective parental apology involves a deep understanding of our child’s feelings, a great deal of self-control, and good social skills. They are demonstrating that taking action to accept responsibility after a mistake is more important than the mistake itself.
It is normal to feel irritated or angry at times. Yet it is important to bear in mind that modelling is a powerful teacher. Learn to recognize triggers and make a plan to do something before you lose control. Allocate a “quiet spot” where family members can go when they are upset, or stop talking and leave the room for a while to calm down. Discuss as a family about what everyone can do to stay calm by creating an emotional safety plan.
Make yourself a good example, and teach your child the importance of making time to eat properly, exercise and rest. Make sure your child has time to have fun, and make sure that your child hasn’t scheduled every moment of his or her life with no “down time” to relax. Caring for oneself and even having fun will help your child stay balanced and better deal with stressful times.
In order to have friends, we have to learn to be a friend. Teach your child the skill of empathy or feeling another’s pain. By learning to connect with others, children can feel empowered and strengthen their resilience. Brainstorm with your child on how they can help others, e.g., you and your child can prepare food in a homeless shelter, go on a fundraising walk-a-thon or simply ask her to collaborate with you on household activities. This teaches children that by sharing and helping, they can make a difference in the lives of others.
Lastly, don’t forget to work together with your child’s school than work alone. Both schools and parents contribute in different ways to make the child’s learning effective. Learning SEL skills is like having an insurance policy for a healthy, positive, successful life. When children are able to master them, they are more likely to succeed in school and life.