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5 easy ways to get parents involved in SEL

Fostering social-emotional development at home is easy when you know how

Social-emotional learning (SEL) equips students with the skills to regulate their emotions, build resilience to stress and challenges, make responsible decisions, collaborate well with others, and empathize and communicate effectively with their peers—all the skills needed to live a healthy and productive life.

SEL is becoming the foundation of many schools across the globe. However, building these core social emotional skills takes time. Like all other skills, social-emotional skills need to be nurtured and learning needs to be ritualized.

SEL shouldn’t stop when the final bell rings. It is critical that we involve parents in social-emotional practices so that students can apply these concepts to life outside the classroom and also witness these important behaviors being modeled through their loved ones. How can we help families foster these skills at home?

1. Educate
Educate families on the importance of building core social emotional skills. Many families are fostering these positive behaviors at home already; it can greatly benefit parents to create an infographic or flyer that formally introduces these concepts. Send students home with this information; this can be an important first step in including families and parents.

2. Communicate
Communication is key. After families have the base knowledge of what SEL is, maintaining open communication can give parents the support they need in order to continue encouraging these behaviors and fostering these essential skills right at home. It is important to recognize that one method of communication will not work for all families.

It is also important to understand the families that you are working with—SEL is a communal effort. Think of different methods of support that you can offer: texting, phone calls, parent support groups, video conferences, or assemblies. Find ways to involve families in the school’s SEL initiatives and encourage educators to share their student’s progress with their loved ones.

What works best for the parents in your community? One way you can find this information is by sending home a survey, or by simply giving families a quick phone call.

3. Generate resources
Update parents and families with new social-emotional resources and materials regularly. Send your students home with information and tips for SEL that can be applied at home. Switch it up: Send informative one-pagers one month and home activities the next. Is there a designated individual at your school or district that can handle families’ SEL-related inquiries? Is there anywhere on the school/district website that has SEL-related information? If not, can you create a blog or Facebook group for parents? Think about how you can store and share the rich library of resources you’re building up.

4. Share expectations
When cultivating social-emotional skills in your students, it is important to set expectations. It is necessary to challenge students to apply these positive behaviors to everyday life. For example, when a student is angry, we challenge them to understand why they are angry, and then we encourage them to regulate their emotions and calm themselves down. Encourage families to continue to set clear expectations at home as well.

It’s also crucial for parents to understand what the expectations are at home. How is my child expected to resolve conflict? What emotional-management strategies should they be able to implement? Are there emotional vocabulary words that they already know and understand? By communicating what expectations are being held at school, we give parents the opportunity to carry these expectations into the home as well.

5. Celebrate success
Recognize the work that parents are already doing to support the social and emotional development of their children! In SEL, it is critical that we recognize when we do well. Conversations during dinner, playtime at home, regularly checking in with their child’s feelings, or bonding over an evening television program are just some of the things that parents and caregivers are doing every day with their children.

Also, make sure to celebrate the SEL milestones that are reached at home. When kids are able to apply these important concepts and responses outside of the classroom, this is an accomplishment for the community as a whole.

Lead with equity
When involving families in this process, please lead with empathy and equity. It is important to remember that no family is the same. SEL requires us to challenge our own biases. Consider any and all possible factors that may have an impact, e.g., cultural background, religion, trauma, and life experience. Recognize and acknowledge the privilege of being able to take part in our students’ social-emotional learning.

Involving families in SEL provides school leaders and teachers with the opportunity to authentically connect with the families and caregivers of their students. Encourage families to take ownership over their own SEL. Send home resources that adults can also use, and utilize open communication to validate whatever feelings may arise in the process. Remember, SEL is a vulnerable process.

Encouraging families to participate in their child’s social-emotional learning not only benefits their child, but the parent as well. This contributes to a healthy and happy community.

[Editor’s Note: This article was first published on the Move This World blog.]

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