Social & Emotional Learning

As a parent, we so often ask ourselves, “Will my child be ready for kindergarten?” We have checklists and guidelines, we go to the local super mass retail chain and buy enrichment materials; after all, you think to yourself, my child will be ahead of the game. Sure she is four and is fluent in Latin and can count to two hundred, but oftentimes as parents, we miss a key element in the preparation of kindergarten. What is it? It’s social and emotional learning. In any quality preschool, these skills will be taught and demonstrated in the classroom environment, but there are also things you can do at home!

A couple of weeks ago my three-year-old nephew was listening to a really upbeat song in the car. He was doing a little head bob, and while his mom was so impressed with the musical rhythm he inherited from his aunt, she decided to video record it. Man, he looked great! But, when he saw that he was being recorded to show future girlfriends his mad dancing skills, he said, “Turn it off. I am angry and I am shy.” His mom could have turned off the recorder then and there, but since every moment is a teachable moment, she said, “That sounds like you are feeling embarrassed. Sometimes people feel angry and shy, sometimes people feel sad and shy, and that is a feeling of being embarrassed.”

WOW! That is great! She recognized that my nephew needed some accommodations in identifying his emotion. Some children don’t know how to identify the simple feelings of being happy, sad, tired, or angry. It is so important as parents to begin to help your child identify his or her feelings. When you are on your way to grandma’s house and your child is giddy with excitement and it seems like they will never stop talking, take time to say, “Hey are you excited? I noticed you are smiling and laughing a lot and you are talking about what you are going to do today with grandma today!” This simple question and statement allows a child to process what he or she is feeling, as well as, label a possibility of the emotion of being excited. So, take every moment as a teachable moment!

Who knew bedtime was a great time to help with social and emotional learning? Well, it is! There are so many fun books to read to children about this topic. The Grouchy Lady Bug, Hands are Not for Hitting, The Little Engine that Could,  Stand Tall Molly Lou Melon,  The Giving Tree, I Was So Mad, and The Kissing Hand are just some of the books that teach us about social and emotional learning.

So where does the social aspect come in to play? Of course, since we have our emotional learning in place and created a wonderful foundation we also have to make sure we can implement this in the real world. When I say social I don’t mean, how many friends can your child acquire by the time he is 5. I mean how does your child handle challenging situations with other peers and adults, and does your child develop positive relationships with others? Whether you like it or not and whether you realize it or not, your child is watching your every move.

One day while sweeping up after snack time a little boy in my Pre-K class came over to me and said, “Miss Abby! Give me that broom; sweeping is not woman’s work.” I asked him, “Why do you think sweeping is not a woman’s work? I am a woman, I have arms, I have hands, I have legs, I know how to hold a broom, and I am a great sweeper!” He then replied, “My dad sweeps after we eat and he is a MAN, so let me see that broom!” Now I am not telling anyone to not help out around the house! I repeat I am not telling one anyone to not help out around the house. This is my point, children form opinions and thoughts regardless of whether you are interacting with them or sweeping the floor, so certainly they will watch you and the other person they love most in life interact. They will see you interact with friends, they will see you react when that car cuts you off on the freeway, and they will see you interact with the other shoppers on Black Friday! What a great responsibility to have as a parent; to know how influential or decision making will be in our own child’s life. Live by example!

You know, that kindergarten readiness thing it’s real… I’ve seen it! There are guidelines and included in those guidelines are social and emotional benchmarks/milestones, but why? Did you know that children who develop social-emotional skills through Pre-K are:

1)More likely to make the transition to kindergarten successfully

2)Less likely to be labeled as delayed

3)Less likely to be placed in lower academic tracks

4)Have parents and teachers with higher academic expectations.

5)Have fewer potential problems with later behavioral, emotional, academic, and social development.

6)Less likely to be retained and experience subsequent problems with school dropout and adolescent pregnancy.

7)Have a decreased risk of poor academic achievement and subsequent risk for delinquent and antisocial behavior.

So long story short, interact with your children on a positive level with quality time, remember that little people see everything, and that as a parent we are not raising children to be good short term, but that we are helping shape and mold individuals to become great adults!