Over the past several years, there has been mounting evidence that shows the correlation between social emotional skills, self-regulation skills and academic achievement. For many years, so much attention had been placed on cognitive development, academic performance, “No Child Left Behind” standards, without truly emphasizing the importance of teaching social, emotional and self-regulation skills first. Young children will struggle academically if they have problems that distract them from educational activities, trouble following directions, inability to control negative emotions, as well as problems that interfere with relationships with peers, teachers, and parents.
Learning is a social process. Explicitly teaching social/emotional skills, setting clear expectations, and creating opportunities for children to implement strategies are essential for school and academic success.
Parents and Teachers support children daily with social-emotional skills by building positive relationships and interactions, modeling expectations, and giving children the language to effectively communicate their feelings. Emerging research shows that the key to long-term benefits for all children, including closing the school readiness gap that affects children growing up in poverty, is the combination of focusing on social-emotional skill development and cognitive enrichment starting at the preschool level. Furthermore, children that enter kindergarten with under developed social-emotional and regulation skills are at a higher risk for academic failure, suspensions, and expulsions. With this understanding, it is crucial that teachers create classroom environments where children feel safe, promotes a sense of community, as well as an environment that promotes opportunities for parent engagement.
One of the best ways to teach social-emotional skills is through literacy and communication. Books and stories are important resources for teaching concepts such as empathy and relationships. Children learn not only by listening to the words from the stories, but also by looking at the pictures, discussions with peers, watching the adult’s facial expressions and by listening to the tone of voice used when reading/telling the stories. Building on a child’s prior knowledge and asking open ended questions encourages the child to expand their thinking, become more aware of emotions, and promotes problem solving skills.
Look for opportunities to explicitly teach, model and develop children’s Social-emotional growth. Opportunities will present themselves at home, school, in the car, at the grocery store, and through play. Be present and actively listen to your child/student, encourage communication, and be an active participant in your child/student’s social-emotional development. By doing so, you are helping your child/student gain confidence, resilience, and the skills that are essential for success not only in education, but throughout their lives.
By Carmen Dorton, Mental Health Specialist
Carmen, a former elementary school teacher, is a Mental Health Specialist who offices at TOP Early Learning Center South. There she provides support to teachers and children as they receive mental health therapy from our team. She’s been a member of the Rainbows’ Mental Health team since November 2018.
If you have questions about Rainbows’ Mental Health Services, call us at 316.558.3420.