Why ‘Social and Emotional Learning’ is so important for kids
A Yale Child Study Center expert explains the value of emotional intelligence at school (and home) in the age of COVID-19. “Emotional intelligence” and “social and emotional learning” are terms parents may hear bandied about by teachers and education leaders. And as kids throughout the country muddle through schooling during a pandemic, honing these skills is especially important, experts say.
Marc Brackett, PhD, founding director of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, which is a part of the Yale Child Study Center, explains more about SEL.
There are different models of social and emotional learning that are built on the theory of emotional intelligence, and RULER is one of them. RULER is an acronym for Recognizing emotions in oneself and other people; Understanding the causes and consequences of those emotions; Labeling emotions with precise words; Expressing emotions; and Regulating emotions.
RULER is an approach, as opposed to a program. It’s not something you do on Thursdays at 2 p.m. It’s about infusing the principles of emotional intelligence into everything that happens in and out of school, from how the leaders lead, to how the teachers teach, to how students learn, to how families parent.
The first step involves a team from a school (one leader and two teachers or mental health professionals) that attends a special training on the principles and tools of emotional intelligence.
Their center has done research on the emotional lives of leaders, teachers, and students right now. Everyone is highly anxious. We have more anxiety than ever before in the modern world.
Parents and teachers need to be the best possible role models for children. That’s why we target our training to adults first. If you are feeling highly anxious and stressed out, you need to demonstrate that you can handle your feelings.
Take a few deep breaths. Go to another room, if that helps you get yourself together, and use positive self-talk. Instead of saying, ‘Nothing ever works out,’ you say, ‘You know what? Right now, we are all safe and we have a loving family.’
Emotion scientists are open and curious and reflective, whereas those who act like emotion judges are closed and critical. All emotions matter. There is no such thing as a bad emotion, including anxiety. Because if anxiety is seen as a bad thing, then kids will adopt that mindset. We need to accept all emotions and use them wisely.
Always validate your child’s feelings.
Take a 'meta-moment.' This is a tool for parents when they are triggered. It means to pause and activate their ‘best self’ as a parent. Think about how you want to be seen as a parent right now and then strategize accordingly.
You should definitely do emotional check-ins throughout the day.
Schools function best when they focus on the relationships among the adults, and tools like the Mood Meter can be done in person or in the virtual world. These skills can easily be taught online.
We over estimate our accuracy at reading emotions in people’s facial expressions. Masks make it even harder. He hopes that now we will spend more time doing quality check-ins, first asking our students how they’re feeling and then listening to what they say, so we can support them.
Emotional intelligence actually starts in the womb. Truthfully, there is good research that a stressed-out mother who is pregnant can create a stressed-out baby. But the essence of our work is that emotion co-regulation starts at birth. When a baby is crying or a child is anxious and overwhelmed, it’s our duty to co-regulate those feelings and assuage them.
For kids who worry a lot, especially during this pandemic, you always want to let them know you are doing everything you can to make sure they are safe, that you are doing the right things to protect everyone, and that you are there for them. You want to be a family that talks about all feelings.
Originally Written by: CARRIE MACMILLAN