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Anushka, a 9-year-old violinist is furious because her younger brother has ruined the artwork that she was supposed to take to school.
Anushka is also upset with her mum for not stopping her brother’s antics. This is where ‘social-emotional learning’ kicks in. Once this skill is developed, Anushka will be able to deal effectively with this seemingly challenging situation and other similar occurrences.
Social and emotional learning (SEL) helps us to manage our feelings, our relationships and solve our problems. Consequently, these are absolutely essential life skills that help our children deal with stressful situations, that might lead to mental health issues. The ones armed with these skills find it easy to deal with their emotions, have meaningful relationships, can resolve conflicts better and grow up into intrinsically positive individuals.
The major areas where SEL is mandatory are:
· Self-awareness: In order to develop an understanding of emotions, which in turn enhances self-confidence.
· Social awareness: Mutual respect, empathy, and mindfulness to accept diversity.
· Self-management: Ability to manage personal feelings, setting personal targets or goals and working to accomplish them.
· Responsible decision making: Making intelligent and well-thought decisions.
· Relationship skills: collaboration, cooperation, building relationships, seeking friends and addressing conflicts or challenges.
We need to realise that SEL is not instantaneous, it needs time to develop. Moreover, the levels differ from one child or individual to the other. There is no magic wand here.
It plays a crucial role in helping students to settle down in class and be more receptive to learning. Since building relationships, empathy and mutual respect are a few of the key features, social emotional learning helps to curtail menaces like bullying and helps the students to grow into conscientious and sensitive adults. Since students are taught how to respond, not react, to tough or difficult situations, aggressive outbursts are significantly reduced.
Parents and teachers can work as a team and help children to develop these skills. A few points to pay heed to are as follows:
Assist them to identify the core strengths and then encourage them to further enhance them. Keep reminding them that learning is a continuous process and that they can achieve their goals with sincerity, honesty and hard work.
Children need to grow in an atmosphere, where they can voice their thoughts, feelings, fears, and opinions. Expressing their deepest emotions will only make them strong and face all of life’s challenges realistically.
Children learn by imitation. Show them appropriate behavior rather than talking down. Help them handle strong or seemingly negative emotions wisely.
Help them make age appropriate decisions and choices. Give them ownership with regard to what they opt for so that they make appropriate decisions sensibly and after careful thought. Encourage them to solve problems in alternate ways and to think creatively.
They need to be allowed to play with their peer group so that they organically develop social skills like teamwork, sharing, and empathy. Try and appreciate all positive behavior consistently.
Help them to inculcate the skill to communicate their thoughts and emotions assertively, respectfully and with absolute confidence. Teach them the importance of a ‘NO’- they do not need to do anything that makes them uncomfortable or vulnerable.
Daniel Goleman, an author and science journalist, rightly says, “If your emotional abilities aren’t in hand, if you don’t have self-awareness, if you are not able to manage your distressing emotions, if you can’t have empathy and have effective relationships, then no matter how smart you are, you are not going to get very far.”
Our children need to grow up into individuals, who are unstoppable and can invent their own future. Because they can. So, let us help them do that!
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