Is your child missing out on social-emotional learning in school?

Photo by Matt Molinari

Think about the last time you communicated with an authority figure, set a goal or practiced recognizing your own emotions. An adult’s capacity to handle common daily challenges directly correlates with the ability to practice social-emotional skills learned in youth.

The path to adulthood success is paved during a child’s earliest years of life, and learning social-emotional skills plays a powerful role in laying the groundwork. With support of the Robert Wood Foundation, Pennsylvania State University released a brief that dives into the need for research, practice and policy on social-emotional learning in preschool classrooms.

Preschool and kindergarten provide an optimal window of opportunity for children to solidify social-emotional skills at a young age. However, early academic standards are on the rise, causing a shift in classroom priorities. Kindergarten is quickly becoming the new first grade, resulting in the expectation that young students prepare for kindergarten success by mastering basic skills prior to their first day of school. As academic institutes increasingly zero in on performance in academic skills, concerns are raised that preschools will no longer prioritize their young students’ ability to build social-emotional skills.

Mastering skills like self-control, following directions, setting a positive goals, feeling empathy for others and making responsible decisions fall under the expansive umbrella of social-emotional learning, and contribute to a child’s capacity to live a healthy, successful life. Children ages 3 to 6 experience rapid psychological changes that transform toddlers into school-ready, socially adept students. When these skills are not fostered at an early age, children may face lifelong consequences in their day-to-day lives at work, home and in interpersonal relationships.

Adverse circumstances like unsafe living conditions, family instability and lack of access to high-quality education options often lead to children’s difficulties learning social-emotional skills because of their increased exposure to stressors. Despite challenges, studies suggest that children who are provided with the opportunity to practice social-emotional learning during preschool are more likely to grow into resilient adults, live a healthier lifestyle and abstain from criminal activity and substance abuse.

Southwest Human Development’s programs like Head Start and Early Head Start , along with Smart Support and Quality First, support social-emotional learning through professional development and classroom activities. A combination of refined classroom management, parent engagement and skill-building activities result in fewer behavioral challenges, yielding an overall greater enjoyment of school.

Nurturing social-emotional learning in the classroom is a direct investment in children’s future social, behavioral and academic success. Preschool’s commitment to these skills plays a critical role in the future wellness of children.

Learn more about the importance of social-emotional learning in the classroom.