United Way
of Massachusetts Bay
and Merrimack Valley

October 9, 2017

School Isn’t All About Academics: Three Things Your Child Needs from You in Order to Succeed

Social-emotional skills are all-encompassing, so set up your child for success at school and beyond. Teach the skills needed by using them in your day-to-day life—opportunities to do so are everywhere.

Being a kid can be hard. Sure, the academics are tough sometimes, but the social interactions that go on inside and outside of the classroom can be equally challenging and kids need to learn how to process all of it. So what can you do to help your child succeed?

For starters, you can promote social-emotional skills at home. Kids learn these skills at a young age, but they use them throughout their lifetime. The goal is to support your child’s ability to:

Understand and manage their emotions

  • Set and achieve positive goals
  • Feel and show empathy for others
  • Create and maintain healthy relationships
  • Make responsible decisions

If you have a young child, do some fun activities or play games, or read books together that have social-emotional themes that you can talk about. Below are some other ideas to help strengthen your child’s social-emotional skills at home:

1. Lead by Example

This is the #1 best way to support social-emotional skills. Try to practice self-control, show empathy, and speak with kindness and respect. When you model positive actions and reactions, your child learns directly from you.

2. Be a Good Listener

If you’re like most parents, you’re probably juggling a gazillion things at once. But if your child comes home upset at the end of the day, the most important thing you can do is to give him your full attention and listen without interrupting.

3. Help Your Child Problem-Solve

Einstein famously said that if he had an hour to solve a problem, he would spend 55 minutes defining the problem and 5 minutes solving it.  Understanding the problem is key to solving it. When a tricky situation pops up, first ask how your child would like to handle it. You will probably hear, “I dunno,” or “move to a new school” but don’t despair. If the root of the problem isn’t clear, then take a page from Six Sigma – a business practice used at some of the world’s most successful corporations. It’s called the ‘5 whys’ and here’s how it works:

Why are you upset?

Because James isn’t talking to me.

Why isn’t James talking to you?

Because he doesn’t want to be my friend anymore.

Why doesn’t he want to be your friend?

Because he says I’m mean.

Why did he say you’re mean?

Because I didn’t pick him to be on my team in gym class.

Why didn’t you pick him to be on your team?

Because I always choose him and my gym teacher told me I had to choose different kids.

It may take more than five questions but keep at it.  It’ll be a lot easier to help your child figure out a solution once you get to the root cause of the problem. Once you’ve found it, ask your child what she thinks she should do about that problem. Help her work toward a solution that she can actually implement. Then, rehearse with her what she will say and do to solve it.

Learn more about how United Way helps prepare children to learn»

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