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Why is Social Emotional Learning Important?

Published December 28th, 2022 by Jacqueline Chin

Blog author: Dr. Ann Marie Ginsberg


The way we feel about ourselves is essential and valuable for us to be able to verbalize needs and meet our basic needs. You might be familiar with psychologist Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Physical survival is the first thing that motivates our behavior. Simply said, if we are hungry, we look for food. When there is no food, it affects our moods. Eventually our mood spills into the mood of others.


Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

“Need” is a multi-dimensional concept. According to Maslow, it starts with physiological needs. Take infants as an example, we look for signals like crying – are they hungry? Do they need a new diaper? What are the most basic needs to a newborn? As the baby grows into a preschooler, they are developing their personality and learning to navigate their world which is ever-expanding. Having them express their needs helps them to identify their needs and helps you to know what they need. By placing your child in school, you are helping them to grow in all 5 developmental domains.

In Understanding Stages of Development and The Importance of Play these two previous blogs, we established that it is in and through play that your child develops the third tier of Maslow’s pyramid “Love and Belonging.” Below image shows that after the basic needs are met (Tier 1) and a safe and secure environment is developed (Tier 2,) a child can grow and pursue the top three tiers of “Belonging”, “Self-esteem”, and “Self-actualization.”

Read more here.


Benefits of Learning Social Emotional Skills

Teaching social emotional skills is essential for helping our children to grow and thrive. These specific and targeted social interactions help your preschoolers develop their interpersonal relationship, coping, and problem-solving skills. For all the positive outcomes it brings, a large number of schools instituted Social Emotional curriculums. An article on NAEYC website goes: “Children who are mentally healthy tend to be happier, show greater motivation to learn, have a more positive attitude toward school, more eagerly participate in class activities, and demonstrate higher academic performance than less mentally healthy peers.” It continues, “Children who exhibit social and emotional difficulties tend to have trouble following directions and participating in learning activities. Compared with healthier peers, they may be more likely to suffer rejection by classmates, have low self-esteem, do poorly in school, and be suspended.” (Hyson, M. 2004. The Emotional Development of Young Children: Building an Emotion-Centered Curriculum, 2nd ed. New York: Teachers College Press.)


Your Role as a Parent in Social Emotional Learning

While your child is learning in school, the continuum to learning at home helps the child to know it indeed is important (because you are doing it too) and strengthens their learning through bridged and deepened activities. Some schools use Social Emotional programs such as Sanford Harmony Curriculum, which has a free parent component available in both English and Spanish. You can explore these resources here.


3 Activity Ideas for Parents

Life is busy but the time spent with your child is invaluable. Remember what matters the most is the quality, not the quantity, of the time spent. Planning short and targeted activities are just as beneficial as a full day without any set plans or goals. Here are 3 quick ideas for you to think on:

  1. Reserve dinner time to talk about the day, listen and help your child to problem-solve if needed. If you start this habit when your child is still at a young age all the way through various stages, such as the teenage years, they will continue seek your counsel which will help them overall navigate life’s challenges easier.
  2. During your daily chats, always reinforce the positive and minimize the negative. Human beings hold onto the negative and let go of the positive. We wouldn’t want that since there is already a lot of negative in the world. By listening to them, looking into their eyes, and giving them your full attention, you boost their self-esteem, and help them to feel exactly how important they are to you.
  3. If possible, make this time technology-free. Technology is helpful but it can’t replace old fashion communication. Show them how people write letters and mail them out, which came long before texting and email. This incorporates their writing skills and is fun for them to anticipate receiving a letter back in the mail.

5 More Ideas:

  1. Doing a chore together, like folding laundry, etc. Matching socks is similar to sorting – same/different activities they are doing in Math.
  2. Let your child take care of a goldfish. Read about the life cycle of a fish or a plant. This is a fantastic opportunity to talk about taking care of themselves and others and also part of the STEM curriculum.
  3. Play games! Learning how to win and lose, taking turns, and following the rules are all inside the box. Make sure the game is within the recommended age on the box. This is a great way to get everyone in your family on the same page when on the same activity.
  4. Going to the library is another great family activity. There are books for all ages and on all topics. If your child is having difficulties in a particular area, consider reading about that topic to start some great family dialogues.
  5. Paying attention to the way your child feels helps to strengthen the child-parent bond. Why not have some magnetic emojis on your refrigerator? Search Emojipedia and find the perfect expression. Pick out the emoji with your child so they take ownership.


Other Useful Resources

The Center on the Social and Emotional Foundation for Early Learning (CSEFEL) has some great resources for you to check out, including scripted social stories, which are great tools for helping your child navigate a situation, and a list of recommended books that supports your child’s social-emotional development.

You might want to take a look at some other books listed here:

  • Can You Be a Friend?, by Nita Everly (Ages 3-6)
  • Care Bears Caring Contest, by Nancy Parent (Ages 3-6)
  • Fox Makes Friends, by Adam Relf (Ages 3-5)
  • How Do Dinosaurs Play with Their Friends?, by Jane Yolen and Mark Teague (Ages 3-5)
  • How I Feel Frustrated, by Marcia Leonard (Ages 3-8)
  • I Can Do It Myself (a Sesame Street Series), by Emily Perl Kingsley (Ages 2-4)
  • I’m in Charge of Me!, by David Parker (Ages 3-5)
  • Mouse Was Mad, by Linda Urban (Ages 4-7)
  • My Many Colored Days, by Dr. Seuss (Ages 3-8)
  • Sharing: How Kindness Grows, by Fran Shaw (Ages 3-5)
  • When I’m Feeling Sad, by Trace Moroney (Ages 2-5)
  • When Sophie Gets Angry—Really, Really Angry, by Molly Garrett Bang (Ages 3-7)

A child’s parent and extended family is the most important building block to help a child to thrive. Each child is different, and every family has different strengths and limitations. Find what works best for your family and just do it! Teaching Social Emotional skills is about living it. In the years to come, you will be delighted at the beautiful garden you grow through your investment of time now.

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