Navigating Social and Emotional Learning Post-COVID
The social and emotional learning of children has been seriously interrupted by the COVID 19 pandemic. While social distancing protects us to some extent from contracting the virus, it is disrupting the development of our children. It is important that both parents and educators consider the impact of COVID-19 on our children and find ways to provide the experiences our children need.
Young children, especially those in elementary school, are at a very important developmental stage. This is a stage where they begin to explore the meaning of their own feelings and how to identify and respond to the feelings of others. Due to the numerous opportunities for interaction, the classroom is often the first place where children begin to learn such things. With a teacher there to supervise and guide, children have the space to navigate social exchanges with few negative consequences. Elements of basic social rules, such as sharing, are introduced at this stage and practiced during classroom activities and play.
So what happens to his/her social and emotional learning when a child is isolated during this very important developmental stage?
The Impact of Isolation
Recent events caused the closing of schools and the transition to online learning. Though it was for the safety of everybody involved, the sudden change created a lot of uncertainty and new challenges to overcome. Some families relied on the schools for access to technology and meals. Every family had to navigate the isolation and long amounts of time spent at home. Whether visible or not, this isolation has a big impact on children since they no longer have the day to day interactions with peers to help their social and emotional growth. As the new school year approaches, more challenges lie ahead. However, there are ways of helping children reacclimate to the classroom and their peers.
Ways to Promote Social and Emotional Learning
When it comes to social and emotional learning, hands-on activities are incredibly important. Children need to independently process what it means to feel certain emotions and how those emotions affect their daily choices. By understanding it in themselves, they can also begin to identify it in others and react in a kind and empathetic way. Some great classroom activities that promote empathy and community include:
By writing down what they are feeling, a child has to actively identify and process their own thoughts and emotions. By writing instead of speaking, it gives the child time and privacy to get their thoughts in order. Journaling also helps children practice their writing skills.
Sometimes children need a safe place to discuss what is going on in their lives and how they are being affected by these things. Whether done individually or as a group, checking in gives children a platform to talk about things that they feel are important. It also promotes polite and interested social interactions by teaching children not to speak over each other and instead wait for their turn.
When given a task or responsibility, children feel important and needed. It also teaches them that they are part of a bigger community. Whether it is helping to clean up after playtime or making sure supplies stay organized, a little responsibility is good for increasing self-esteem and awareness. Once they have completed the task, they can be proud of what they accomplished and have something to show off to their parents or other loved ones.
As school resumes in the fall, it is important to be aware of any difficulties children have reintegrating into a scheduled and social community. Adults can guide the transition into more enjoyable territory so kids will want to come back.
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