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Learn about the benefits of social and emotional learning

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Parents and caregivers want their children to experience fulfillment, happiness and "success" in all aspects of their life.

They work hard to create a life that will increase the chances that success can be achieved. But, happiness and success are complex. Parents may sometimes feel unsure about which parenting strategies or techniques to use. So how do we help children grow to be healthy, happy and successful adults?

There are many answers to this question. However, a growing body of research on emotional intelligence (EQ) and social, emotional learning (SEL) offers helpful advice in supporting parents, caregivers and educators to "grow" happiness and success in their children, and in their futures.

Emotional Intelligence (EQ) is defined as the ability to identify and understand emotions in yourself and others, and to manage emotions to promote personal growth.

Social, emotional learning (SEL) is about developing the skills required to deal with the twists and turns of daily life and includes how to:

  • Recognize and manage emotions;
  • Develop care and concern for others;
  • Establish positive relationships;
  • Make healthy decisions;
  • Resolve challenging situations constructively.

EQ and SEL are not new concepts, but recent research has renewed interest in this area and highlighted the benefits of increasing our own EQ as well as fostering it in others. Individuals with high EQ are more likely to be happy and productive. They are more confident and have less stress in their lives. In fact, people with good emotional intelligence generally do better at work and home because they are better able to manage their feelings and be self-aware.

According to New York University Child Study Center, EQ is a better predictor of success than IQ and technical skills combined, and is the best predictor of a child's future achievement, better than any other single factor. Everyone, no matter what their age, has the ability to improve their emotional intelligence.

Although family life is often seen as the first "classroom" for social, emotional learning, opportunities for enhancing EQ and social emotional learning are everywhere. Schools, after-school and community activities are also important places where these skills can be fostered. And so while parents play a vital role in fostering their children's and youth's EQ and SEL, educators, coaches and other leaders can help develop and strengthen EQ as well.

n fact, many schools are incorporating SEL strategies into their daily activities. Some school divisions in Winnipeg have developed division-wide, comprehensive SEL strategies. When schools and divisions make SEL a priority they are able to build these skills in children of all ages. Research shows the earlier we start developing SEL skills in children, the better chance they have of benefitting from them.

At home, at school and in the community, parents, educators, coaches and community members can all do their part to promote SEL.

One such way is to boost your own emotional intelligence and opportunities for social emotional learning. This can be accomplished through stopping to think, noticing how we are feeling, how we cope with everyday situations, and the effort we put into developing healthy relationships with others.

Another way is to be a role model. Children learn important lessons about emotions and social situations from their parents and other important adults in their lives. Through your behaviours, demonstrate respectful relationships, positive conflict resolution, co-operation, and recognizing and managing your personal feelings. Also, look for teachable moments that occur naturally in day-to-day life, moments where you notice a shift in mood, a conflict or a caring, kind or generous act and discuss these with children.

There are many ways to help kids master social, emotional skills, and when caregivers, schools and the larger community work together to achieve this, they contribute to the overall healthy development and well-being of all children. With enhanced SEL and EQ, children and youth are more likely to succeed, not just in school but in all aspects of life.

Toni Tilston-Jones is a program specialist with the Winnipeg Health Region

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