Life Skills: Essential to navigating the world successfully. More noticeable when they're absent than when they're functioning well. Something every parent hopes their child will develop with time. But how exactly does this happen?
Social and Emotional Learning (SEL for short) is a term used to describe the complex process by which we acquire skills to help us understand and manage our emotions. If you're feeling fuzzy about what this translates to in day-to-day life, it's helpful to think of the outcome of this process as a set of specific skills. CASEL, The Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning, has done just that. Their framework is being recognized by educators as essential to positive development in students. The following five core competencies are areas they've identified in which educators can focus and assess learning. We can all think of times when we explained a basic reality or norm to our child that adults take for granted, but to them is new, confusing and mysterious--"Why can't I complain loudly about how I'm hungry while waiting for my food in a restaurant?" "Why should I avoid talking about the great time I had at Grandma's last weekend to my friend whose grandmother just passed away?" How can we help kids answer these questions themselves? How do our children develop into people whom we regard as emotionally and socially "competent" and ultimately, individuals that are successful at school, at home, and with peers? The answer is SEL.
Self-awareness is how we perceive ourselves, our identity and our emotions. Self-management is how we deal with these emotions in regard to ourselves, in areas such as productivity, discipline, and organization. The extensions of these individual competencies are their social counterparts: social awareness, or how we perceive others, and relationship skills, or how we relate to others in areas such as engagement, communication, and conflict resolution.
The fifth area of competency employs all the others and, for this reason, is the most complex. Responsible decision-making asks us to consider all the possible outcomes of a situation and evaluate them, reflecting on our needs and the needs of others, safety, ethics, and social norms among other things, to make the best choice. The ultimate goal of development is to be able to make good choices. We cannot always control what we experience, but we can control how we respond to it. When we do this well, we are successful. Social and emotional learning gives us the tools we will use throughout life to be successful people.