Preparing kids to go back to school is not easy by all means. And when you think of it, why would it be? After an incredibly hard school year, many moms and dads are feeling confident about sending their children back to school. However, many are also skeptical about the challenges students will face as they learn to adapt back to in-person classes.

Transitions are hard on anyone, and even harder on children who are going back to class for the first time since COVID-19 began. It’s no surprise that research shows growing rates of children feeling depressed during the pandemic. According to a SickKids-led study, 37.6% of school-aged children experienced a worsening in depression, and 38.7% felt an increase in their anxiety.

What is SEL?

Social-emotional learning (SEL) is described as the mindset, skills, attitudes, and feelings that help students succeed in school, career, and life. Its primary focus is on students’ fundamental needs for motivation, social connectedness, and self-regulation as a vital part of learning and human development.

The impact of COVID-19 and the sudden turnaround from in-person to remote learning confirms that the need to implement SEL strategies is present now more than ever. Focusing on social-emotional supports including rebuilding relationships, strengthening sense of belonging, and promoting a healthy school climate can mend the trauma many students’ have faced over the past two years.

CASEL’s Five Core Competencies

Many school leaders use the CASEL (the Collaborative Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning) foundation as a guide to promote students’ social and emotional development. A 2017 meta-analysis from CASEL reveals that those who take part in SEL practices have improved classroom behavior, better stress management, and 13 percent gains in academics.

  1. Self-Awareness: The ability to understand one’s own emotions and thoughts. It also includes being able to recognize one’s strengths and weaknesses without losing their sense of confidence and purpose. Self-awareness may look like being able to identify emotions.
  2. Self-Management: The ability to manage one’s emotions and behaviors according to distinct situations and achieving one’s goals. Self-management may look like someone having impulse control and self-motivation.
  3. Social Awareness: The ability to understand point of views, and empathize with others, no matter their diverse background. This also includes feeling compassion for others and recognizing resources and supports available. Social awareness may look like being respectful of others.
  4. Relationship Skills: The ability to establish and maintain healthy relationships. This also includes skills to communicate effectively, listen actively, and work alongside others to problem solve a conflict. Relationship skills may look like teamwork.
  5. Responsible Decision-Making: The ability to make caring and productive choices about personal behavior and social interactions. This includes being able to evaluate the benefits and consequences of an action being taken. Responsible decision-making may look like analyzing situations and reflecting.

The coronavirus has taken a toll on many, and we’re still unsure of how long the disruptions to school will last. Addressing students’ social-emotional needs includes supporting them in ways that will help them become successful, both now and future challenges they may face.

For more blogs related to tips, advice, and ideas for prepping children for their return to the classroom, check out our other Back to School Series on our website!

Submitted by: Natasha Pande