Social and Emotional Learning During the Pandemic

What Is Social and Emotional Learning?

While social and emotional learning (SEL) is a concept that has been around in academic circles for a while now, the topic is being discussed since the onset of the pandemic. What it refers to is creating positive relationships and emotional connections as part of learning to help children develop the skills they need to be successful in life. SEL has often been emphasized in schools, given the amount of time kids spend in the classroom and the opportunities available for them to practice these important skills. SEL skills include having the ability to:

  • Set and achieve positive goals
  • Feel and show empathy toward others
  • Establish and maintain positive relationships
  • Make responsible decisions
  • Understand and manage emotions

Why has SEL garnered so much attention? Research has shown that children who participate in SEL programs at school:

  • Develop better social and emotional skills
  • Have more positive attitudes toward self and others
  • Exhibit positive social behavior
  • Have fewer incidences of conduct problems and emotional distress
  • Achieve stronger academic performance

Isolation and SEL During the Pandemic

As the cases of COVID-19 have surged recently, more schools have closed and opportunities for children to practice these social and emotional skills through in-person interactions have diminished. While this is a problem for all kids, it is especially difficult for children with ADHD.

Normal social development can be challenging for children with ADHD due to several factors:

  • Trouble picking up on social cues
  • Difficulty maintaining friendships due to the intensity they may project
  • Being distracted or inattentive during social interactions
  • Seeming unreliable or unpredictable because of problems with planning and organization
  • Overreacting in certain situation due to problems with emotional dysreguation

Strategies to Help Develop SEL Skills

The isolation of the pandemic is a problem, but there are strategies you can use to help your ADHD child practice building SEL skills even in an environment where most of their peer interactions are remote. Here are a few to consider.

Discuss how they feel about building friendships – This requires carefully listening to what they express, and an empathetic approach that validates their concerns or fears.

Help your child better understand their current online environment – Get their perspective and then ask questions that will help them tune in to the social cues, body language and interpersonal dynamics occurring within the various online groups they regularly participate in.

Have them practice building friendships – This can start in small, low-risk ways and then build up from there. For example, first get them to practice noticing things about another person and managing small talk. The practice can be done with immediate family members or close relatives before being practiced with peers. It can be safer if they start with some one-on-one conversations with friends or peers rather than in a larger online group.

Get them to reflect on their relationships – Ask them how they feel about their friendships and what they like or are struggling with.

The social distancing constraints of COVID-19 does not mean social and emotional learning needs to come to a halt. You can work on these basics with your ADHD child to enhance their social development. The investment of time you make will last them a lifetime.



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