Teachers: Here’s How You Can Help Parents Address SEL at Home

Contributed By

Lauren Davis

EdTech Editor, Former Department Chair and Instructional Coach

Teachers: Here’s How You Can Help Parents Address SEL at Home

Posted in Evolving Ed | August 25, 2020

As educators, the emotional well-being and social skills of their students have always been on our radar. Now, with many students doing at least part of their learning outside the classroom, parents need our help addressing social and emotional learning (SEL) at home. This is not to imply that parents aren’t already intimately involved in maintaining healthy levels of emotional well-being and social skills for their children; however, in their new roles as both parents and teachers, the perspective through which SEL is addressed may need to be refreshed. Read on to learn more about how to help parents address SEL at home: 

Lead with open communication. 

Communicate your SEL strategy with parents at the beginning of the school year and keep them updated on how you’re working to accomplish the commitments your school or district has made to support the social and emotional needs of students. It’s important to clearly define how you plan to support parents’ efforts, as well as equip them with tools and resources to make addressing SEL at home a more thoughtful process. Don’t forget to seek parents’ opinions, too. Ask for feedback and direction, and speak to them about their individual children. This type of partnership builds trust and when parents and teachers trust each other, students benefit. 

Encourage parents to give students time to talk about feelings.  

Whether they will openly admit it or not, students are likely experiencing a lot of new feelings right now, and one of the best things parents can do is to provide dedicated time to talk about them in a safe and trusting environment. Some parents may need a bit of guidance on this, though. Encourage them to do these things when making time to discuss feelings: 

  • Give students your full attention. If parents are working from home, let them know it’s acceptable to tell students they’ll have to wait until a later time, but follow through is crucial. 
  • Be mindful of your tone and posture. Children take cues from adults, especially their parents.                          
  • Use kid-friendly language and be honest. 

When students feel socially and emotionally confident, they are more likely to positively adapt to adverse circumstances and persist in the face of challenges. 

Teach parents the importance of digital citizenship. 

Social-emotional learning requires the development of prosocial skills, such as a willingness to help others and to be a good team member. Learning at home presents a good opportunity for families to discuss and explicitly teach prosocial skills in an online environment, and 21st-century digital citizenship skills are critical in today’s schools, workplaces, social media interactions, and more.  

The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) recommends that students not only learn to safeguard their digital reputations (a common concern for parents, for sure) and to respect the rights of others, but also to become successful collaborative, empowered learners through good digital citizenship. Help parents work with their children to customize the use of the school’s learning management system (LMS), developing an organization and communication system that works best for them. Put it all together, and students feel safer and more competent in a digital environment, reflecting the spirit of SEL. 

Encourage parents to be good listeners and nurture their students’ self-esteem. 

According to Joshua Freedman, CEO at Six Seconds, a nonprofit organization supporting emotional intelligence in families, schools, communities and corporations, listening is a core competency skill. But, realistically, it’s not always practiced by students or parents. Share listening strategies and remind parents to model the behavior they seek from their students.  

When students feel heard, it increases their self-esteem. A student with a good sense of self is happier, more well-adjusted, and does better in school. Strategies for fostering self-esteem include giving students responsibilities, allowing them to make age-appropriate choices, and showing appreciation for a job well done. 

This school year, with so many unknowns looming in the near future, let’s do everything we can to support parents’ efforts to help educate students at home. Social and emotional learning is foundational for student success, so let’s work together to give our students the best we can, no matter where they’re learning.  

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