Building Social Emotional Learning (SEL) at Home

A Mom from the Northwest Suburbs Chicago, IL 

Dear Bulldog, 
I just joined the PTA for my son’s school. They want to bridge the gap from school to home to further develop children’s Social Emotional Skill (SEL). What do you recommend? 


A PTA Mom 

Dear PTA Mom,

We would recommend you start with simple ideas that can become habits in your home.

1-Teach your child about the different emotions: Go beyond the common emotions such as mad, sad, and happy. You can do this while watching TV or reading to your child. Sit with your child and ask: “How is this character feeling?” or  “Look at the actors faces how do you think they feel?” You can also use cue cards with emotions. We recommend Mood Dudes. Work through emotions such as shame, smug, embarrassed, excited, tired, exhausted. You can turn it into a game. For example: “Show me your mad, sad, frustrated, tired, bored, or smug face.” For older kids, you can have them pick a card and ask them to share a time they felt that emotion. We would also recommend  expressing your emotions to your children. So if you are running around with your head cut off, you can say: “I am so overwhelmed today. I just need to take a deep breath.” The idea is that you expose more emotions day-to-day so your child can identify and talk about them. So instead of having a word of the day, you can do an emotion of the day! 

2-Work on using deep breathing as a soothing and calming exercise. Take a long deep breath in and practice making your exhale longer. You can inhale and count 1-2-3-4, then exhale and count 1-2-3-4-5. Practice this in your home, so you model the deep breathing regularly. Start taking more deep breaths when you are feeling agitated. Remind your child to take a deep breath when you see he is getting frustrated or escalating. It really helps regulate emotions.

3-Find a moment in the day: in the morning before school, in the evening after dinner, or right before bed to have one-on-one time with your child. Be totally disconnected, turn off the TV and put down the phone. Just be in the moment with your child. Use that time to find out about his likes and dislikes, friends, and about his day at school. Spend time learning about his world, but don’t forget to share what you love about him or how he was helpful or kind. Tie in examples when sharing your child’s strengths, so he can visualize when he has displayed them. It is about giving your child examples, so that he can look back into his memory bank and see that he truly has these qualities. Stay in the moment and be consistent in having “talk times” during the day. Your child will thrive emotionally from these little talks.

We hope this gives you some new ideas to better develop SEL in your home!

Bulldog Team