Social skills are what children need to succeed. That’s because social skills contain all the necessary elements that children require in order to regulate their behavior, have emotional well-being, achieve in school, and use later on to do well in the workplace. In a sense, social skills can be thought of as an ‘all-purpose’ learning tool. This idea is catching on in schools, in the form of Social Emotional Learning (SEL) programs.
People often confuse having good social skills as meaning a person is gregarious or has lots of friends. This is not the case at all. It simply means having the ability to see the perspective of other people and to be able to conform one’s own behavior in order to get along with other people. In fact, you can be shy or introverted and have good social skills. On the other hand, you can be gregarious and have relatively poor socials skills.
SEL teaches the kind of ‘character building’ and stick-to-it-iveness’, parents and teachers wish more children had. Growing numbers of colleges and employers complain too many high schoolers are lacking in these skills, and thus will be less likely to perform as well in adult life.
The good news is more and more schools are incorporating SEL programs into their curriculum; More and more educators realize SEL is just as important as reading, science, and math.
SEL does not start in school. Reflective Parenting emphasizes that it begins from the moment of birth within the parent-child relationship – e.g., the back and forth of communication, the empathy, soothing, and the support parents provide. As well as the rules, expectations, and limits that parents have. The parent-child relationship plays a direct role in SEL throughout a child’s life.
However, school is a particularly good setting for SEL, since there are so many relationships to learn from. Children can learn how to deal with many different types of people – nicer ones and nastier ones. They can learn to deal with both peer relationships and relationships with the adult authority figures. They can learn how to deal with 1-on-1 relationships and the group relationships that occur in free play, collaborative school work or on a team. Along with home, school is a microcosm of preparing children for the outside world they will join as they grow up.
SEL programs teach children the same skills Reflective Parenting encourages, whether the child is at home or at school: Self-awareness, Self-management, Social-awareness, Relational skills, and Responsible decision making.
- Children learn to recognize, respect and communicate effectively how they feel and what they want, as well as what others feel and want.
- Children learn to regulate their behavior, impulses, emotional expression and what they say to fit the social situation so that they can connect, cooperate, and collaborate well with others.
- SEL has broad benefits, beyond the social realm, because in the process children are developing a whole complex web of internal self-control capacities.
- The same skills enable children to take more responsibility for their actions, pay attention and do their school work despite distractions, follow rules and comply with regulations, and incorporate the feelings and needs of others into their decision making.
Written by Regina Pally, Founder and Co-Executive Director, CRC
Based on research done by RAND