GUEST POST: Supporting the Social and Emotional Development of Young People!

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Guest Post by: Lana Wells, Brenda Strafford Chair & Safe and Caring Special Advisor

As defined by CASEL, Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) “involves the processes through which children and adults acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.” SEL programming is based on the understanding that the best learning emerges in the context of caring relationships that take place in supportive environments that focus on making learning challenging, engaging, meaningful, and most importantly, create opportunities for the development of the skills that support healthy relationships. There are five core competencies that can be taught – and we know that parents, educators, school authorities and policy makers have a key role in supporting and building these competencies with children and youth. For an overview of SEL please click here. 

Image Source: Carthy Foundation

Image Source: Carthy Foundation

So how can teachers help build children’s SEL competencies? CASEL suggests students be given opportunities to:

  • Prompt, model and teach conflict-resolution skills;
  • Practice group decision-making and setting classroom rules;
  • Deepen their understanding of a current or historical event by applying it to a set of questions based on a problem-solving mode; and
  • Engage in cross-age mentoring, in which a younger student is paired with an older one – to help build self-confidence, a sense of belonging, and enhanced academic skills.

Research shows that if we can implement practices and policies that foster children’s positive behaviors and beliefs, along with creating healthy classrooms and schools by providing opportunities for children and youth to practice these skills, we can reduce rates of peer aggression and victimization. Teachers and schools have a critical role to play in teaching children the skills to engage in healthy relationships – and this is an important strategy for preventing dating violence and ultimately, family violence.

To learn more about SEL and what teachers and schools can do to integrate this  into their classroom and school settings, please click here.

About the author:

Lana Wells holds the position of The Brenda Strafford Chair in the Prevention of Domestic Violence at the Faculty of Social Work, University of Calgary. The Brenda Strafford Foundation and the Government of Alberta provided funding to establish The Brenda Strafford Chair in the Prevention of Domestic Violence at the Faculty of Social Work. The chair provides leadership in research related to the prevention of all facets of domestic violence—emotional and psychological, physical and sexual, and economic abuses.  Lana also serves as a special advisor to the Society for Safe and Caring Schools & Communities.

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