Dealing with issues related to social and emotional regulation have become a part of everyday life for many teachers. Here are the first 4 of 8 ways to help students with social emotional regulation (and still have time to teach!)
1 Teach and regularly support your students’ journey in learning to communicate their feelings.
Remember that when you plant a seed, you must put in the time and care with the faith that there is growth happening underneath the surface. Building a foundation takes time.
2 Help students increase their comfort level with social and emotional language.
Many kids are not accustomed to talking about how they feel, or hearing others do so. Before any connection between emotions and social regulation can be made, it is essential that we do not inadvertently make our students uncomfortable!
Reading stories, watching videos or a play about characters experiencing a variety of feelings are all natural ways for discussions about feelings to start. Immediate conversation flows especially well because the language of the story is fresh in everyone’s mind.
3 Go cross-curricular.
This is particularly easy to do in language arts with all that can be done with stories (retell, relate, reflect), character discussions, story planning and more.
Let the arts imitate life
My kindergarten students were involved in a passion-filled discussion about birthdays and parties (ironically, none of which were in the near future) and the range of feelings spanned from excited and overjoyed to dejected and deeply hurt.
Arguments about who said what, and ‘no I didn’t’, pronouncements of ended friendships and tears flowed freely.
Drama, art and music had put themselves on the timetable.
We talked about birthdays, and how different people feel about them, depending on their circumstances.
The students engaged in dramatic play about what we discussed. A number of them went to the puppets I made for them out of laminated business-size envelopes. They use dry-erase markers to draw faces on them to show feelings. (These and the cards below are a part of my Feelings Visuals Set and my Everything Feelings Big Bundle).
You will see from the picture below, that some chose to make paper bag craft versions to take home.
4 Gently begin to make connections between feelings and responses to them.
I say gently, because just by saying the word ‘behavior’ or asking the wrong question can put even a four year old on the defensive.
How often have you heard someone ask another why they have done something, and their response is that they do not know?
It is often through recognizing patterns in behaviors and events or situations that lead back to the emotion the individual was experiencing at the time.
Years ago I was looking for a way to help young kids make these connections by analogy (still wedged in my brain a Reading Recovery strategy) Analogy (the RR way) helped students figure it out how to read and write more words on their own, based on prior knowledge.
I was learning about Social Stories at the time, but they weren’t exactly what I was looking for. I needed something between a social story and children’s picture book that would show (not tell!) connections between emotions and responses, and show an ‘any child‘ using different strategies to appropriate manage tricky feelings.
Once kids start to make these connections, they begin to understand that there are tools they can use to help themselves manage tricky, intense emotions.
Having some hope and faith that “I can manage myself” lays the groundwork for increased independence, social regulation and more curriculum!