Voices from the Idaho EdNews Community

Working together to provide for social and emotional needs

Raise your hand if you’ve ever:

  • Taught your child to say please and thank you.
  • Coached your child to be honest and to tell the truth.
  • Taught your child to take turns and to share.
  • Encouraged your child to treat others with respect and kindness.
  • Encouraged your child to keep trying when they’re frustrated with a difficult task and assured them they were capable of handling challenges.

As a good parent, you‘ve probably engaged in these — and many other — interactions to support the emotional and social well being of your child.  In other words, you have provided your child with SEL — Social Emotional Learning.

While there are individuals and organizations who want you to believe that SEL is something new and scary and threatening to families, it is actually the opposite.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures:

Social and emotional learning (SEL) refers to a wide range of skills, attitudes, and behaviors that can affect student success in school and life. Consider the skills not necessarily measured by tests: critical thinking, emotion management, conflict resolution, decision making, teamwork. While unable to traditionally quantify, these can round out student education and impact academic success, employability, self-esteem, relationships, and civic and community engagement.

SEL is a means of supporting the needs of students so that they are better able to operate successfully in school and in life.  While Social Emotional Learning is primarily provided by parents, schools and parents should—and do—work together to make sure children are similarly supported in both the home and school settings.

While it is easy to say that schools should focus only on academics, it is common sense that emotions do impact a student’s ability to learn at school.  We’ve all experienced lower productivity at work after a night spent worrying, or after an argument with a loved one, or upon receiving a scary medical diagnosis, or experiencing an unexpected financial setback.  Children are no different—their focus and performance are affected by their emotions and relationships, and they sometimes need help with handling those emotions and social interactions.

Most parents are very aware of these needs.  When there has been an upsetting occurrence at home, such as the death of a family member or a change in the family structure, parents often reach out to the teacher, principal, and counselor so that the school can help support the child.  This partnership between parents and schools is vital to taking care of and ensuring the safety of the child.   By working together to provide SEL, parents and schools can equip students with the tools to face the adversity that is inevitable in life—and to overcome that adversity.

Students who learn from their parents and schools to manage emotions, make decisions, work well with others, think critically, and communicate effectively also take those skills to the workplace.  We hear again and again from business leaders that “durable skills”—those real-life skills that foster success in all work settings and positions—are essential to success for employees and for the businesses that employ them.

If you have questions about how your child’s school is providing Social Emotional Learning or about learning materials being used, ask your local school.  Don’t rely on information disseminated by outside groups or individuals who are not familiar with your community school.

Because we all—parents and schools—want the best for our children when they move on to their adult lives, we do all we can to prepare them to be successful in the workplace and in their communities.  Social-Emotional Learning is a big part of that preparation.


Don Coberly, Geoffry Thomas, Wil Overgaard, Teresa Fabricius

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