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3 Strategies for Speaking to Parents About Social-Emotional Learning

For many educators, discussing traditional school subjects like science, history and mathematics with parents and guardians is a relatively simple exercise. However, difficulties can sometimes arise when discussing the soft skills, particularly when they are categorized in the context of social-emotional learning (SEL). Beyond the potential political connotations associated with the term, research conducted by Learning Heroes found that the way in which educators discuss these behavioral skill sets is critical to how they are accepted by a parental figure.

Because it takes collaboration and reinforcement of SEL skills both at home and in a classroom environment, it’s essential that teachers and parents view each other as partners who share the common goal of promoting and instilling these essential competencies.

We invite you to read below for a few strategies and ideas from the Learning Heroes study you can use to discuss these important topics with families in your school.


1. Reinforce the SEL Skills Learned at Home

Of the parents surveyed in the Learning Heroes report, 95% viewed their home environment as the place where social, emotional, cognitive and academic development skills are taught, and 92% stated that school environments are where these same skills are reinforced. Additional focus group analysis found that parents, by and large, viewed themselves as primarily responsible for their child’s development and viewed their child’s school as a partner.

Key Takeaway: Understand that caregivers want to play a primary role in their child’s education and it’s important for educators to not overstep their role.


2. Provide Context With Real-World Examples

Most caregivers are not experts in education and that’s OK. However, because of this, it can be helpful to show examples of what SEL can look like in practice. Videos that depict students engaged in this type of learning can go a long way in dispelling any misconceptions or misunderstandings. This strategy can be even more effective when showing SEL strategies incorporated in the context of teaching more traditional academic subjects like math and reading, so that caregivers know these skills do not have to be taught at the expense of other crucial skills.

Key Takeaway: Think about how to provide families with concrete examples of what SEL looks like in practice to dispel potential worries or concerns.


3. Avoid “Edu-Jargon”

The ways in which educators might talk about SEL and academic learning can sometimes be intimidating or simply misunderstood by parents. For instance, the Learning Heroes study points out that the word “grit” was shown to produce a negative connotation to the parents in the survey. Additionally, words like “curiosity” and “self-awareness” caused some respondents to worry about their child’s physical and psychological safety.

Key Takeaway: When possible, use language that caregivers can relate to while staying true to the latest academic research.


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