Social-emotional learning or SEL is the process through which people are taught to process their emotions better or more effectively. As a result, they develop strong social skills that will allow them to react, adapt, and function well in any social setting they may encounter in life.
Both children and adults are able to benefit from a social-emotional learning curriculum. But in the same way that prevention is better than a cure, starting them young is much more preferred than having them start as adults
Prevention is Better Than a Cure: Social Emotional Learning Curriculum for Kids
It’s important to teach children how to manage their emotions as early as possible because it’s definitely more challenging to teach adults!
Children Learn New Things Faster than Adults
A kid’s mind is basically built to absorb information and learn whereas an adult’s is built to perform given everything they’ve learned over the span of their life.
A kid’s still-developing prefrontal cortex gives them the ability to be inventive, creative, and flexible. In contrast, thanks to the development of their prefrontal cortex, adults often just see things as they are.
Given this, kids will find it easier to absorb SEL lessons than adults would.
Children Require Minimal Correction
As kids are still young and have yet to experience much of the world, chances are that SEL lessons will not be in conflict with the things they’ve learned and the skills they’ve developed in life. More often than not, when it comes to SEL, kids will require very minimal to no corrections in learnings and behavior.
Most adults, on the other hand, would have to unlearn behaviors that would hinder their growth SEL-wise. For instance, an adult may have learned to feel safe in isolation or learned to build up walls as a defense mechanism against things they find hurtful. Unlearning these behaviors to develop their SEL would take a lot of time and effort.
A child who has not developed these behaviors can breeze through an SEL curriculum with ease.
Good Impact from the Get-Go
A child with strong social and emotional skills is a child who can positively impact the world from early on.
By teaching a child SEL, we minimize his chances of negatively affecting anyone with bad social and emotional skills.
Children Learn from Each Other
Being in a classroom setting and being around classmates all the time affects the way children learn more than we think they do.
Sure, children learn a lot from their teachers. But during breaks and through interaction in class, they learn from their fellow classmates, too.
A group of children with strong social and emotional skills acts as kind of support group—constantly teaching and learning from each other, constantly developing and strengthening their social and emotional skills, finding strength in the way they interact with each other.
What Does a Social-Emotional Curriculum for Kids Entail?
Just as schools are able to teach children math and science, they can do the same with SEL. Although an SEL curriculum will not teach children things that could get them high SAT scores, it’s still just as important—if not, more important than other curriculums as this prepares them for life in general.
What Children Can Develop
With a social-emotional learning curriculum, kids are expected to develop strong social and emotional skills that will positively affect their goals, interaction and relationships with others, and overall decisions.
An SEL curriculum teaches kids to effectively process and manage their emotions.
Students are taught to manage stress, control their impulses, and motivate themselves to set and achieve their goals.
Socially aware kids are those who are able to understand and react well to social situations. They treat people with respect – regardless of their backgrounds, beliefs, cultural upbringing, etc.
With SEL, students practice empathy and react to different social situations with care and compassion.
Kids are taught to interact with others effectively to build and maintain meaningful relationships.
Communication and comprehension skills are emphasized here – students are taught to speak and listen to others, to constructively negotiate or compromise when faced with conflicts, and to basically be a team player.
Kids are taught to make responsible decisions. This means that students should be able to take into account and evaluate all the pros and cons of their actions – they look at the consequences their actions may have on their community, their health and well-being, and the health and wellbeing of others.
What Challenges Block the Development of Social Emotional Learning Curriculums in Schools
Starting them young on SEL would mean the integration of these programs in schools.
However, despite all that society can benefit from promoting social-emotional learning curriculums in schools, they are still not all that popular or at least being taken seriously.
Lack of Quantifiable Data
As the results of SEL curriculums do not necessarily have quantifiable results, it is easy to dismiss such programs as ineffective and a waste of time. Scholastic metrics are given more importance because of the implications they have on the performance of a school.
Also, being able to financially sustain an SEL curriculum would mean having to justify its implementation.
Believers of the effectiveness of an SEL curriculum are faced with this challenge – with little quantifiable results, how can they prove that such curriculum can effectively improve students’ performance in school and in society in general?
Lack of Stable Funding
Teachers and school leaders would have to be educated about SEL – building their expertise would not only be expensive but technically challenging, too!
The development of such programs doesn’t just happen overnight. In fact, they can take years. The consistent funding of such programs despite not having any progress results-wise can be a difficult thing to sustain
Luckily, many SEL organizations offer affordable plans that schools can take advantage of to get started on setting up their own SEL curriculums. The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) also provides schools with great guides on how to efficiently sustain a proper social-emotional learning curriculum.
With the help of these organizations, a future where we can all start our children young on SEL looks bright!