Social and Emotional Learning of Primary Aged Child


By Dr. Sax

Research suggests that the emotional development of a child has an impact on development in many areas. These areas include development in physical, social, cognitive and emotional domains and all have contributed to a child’s ability to adapt to school life (National Association for the Education of Young Children, 2004, as cited in Sax, 2013). Studies of Knitzer and Lefkowitz (as cited in Denham et. al, 2003; as cited in Sax 2013) indicate that young children struggle to develop emotional and behavioral strategies that are necessary to adapt and succeed in school (Knitzer & Lefkowitz, 2005, as cited in Sax, 2013). 

Emotional competence defined as having three specific components: 1) emotional expressiveness, 2) emotional knowledge, and 3) emotional regulation (Denham et al., 2003)  has been linked to social competence and is instrumental in forming positive school relationships and positive self-esteem, which are critical for school readiness and academic success (Nissen & Hawkins, 2010, as cited in Sax, 2013).

Social-emotional and life skills must be taught at the elementary and secondary levels (Hoffman, 2009, as cited in Sax, 2013). 

Just like learning how to read or add and subtract, social- emotional skills must also be taught if young students are to internalize these tools (Elias, 2006, as cited in Sax, 2013). Students who have positive relationships with others and feel good about themselves are more successful in school and later in life (Hoffman, 2009, as cited in Sax, 2013). Social and emotional skills are fundamental building blocks that enable children to succeed academically in a positive school climate (Committee for Children, 2007, as cited in Sax, 2013).

Danielsen, Samdal, Hetland, and Wold (2009) argued that scholastic competence is important for students’ adjustment to school and their overall satisfaction with school. They also suggested that in order for children to be satisfied with school and perceive themselves as competent learners, social support from peers, teachers, and parents is also needed (Sax, 2013).

School practices that foster positive adjustment or holistic health (social, emotional, physical and cognitive balance): 1) enhance children’s meaningful connections to others in the school environment, 2) enhance children’s sense of competence as learners and 3) promote a sense of autonomy and self-direction that are associated with positive school attitudes and overall healthy functioning both in school and society (Baker & Dilly, 2003, as cited in Sax, 2013). Transitioning between grade levels, schools and between developmental periods is not only an exciting time for young children and adolescents but also a time that is chaotic and stressful (Turner, 2007, as cited in Sax, 2013). Transitioning can this be defined as passing from one condition, place or activity to another and can be understood as a psychological response to change (Turner, 2007, as cited in Sax, 2013). Under this premise, it is important that all children and/or adolescents are offered support and guidance from the appropriate school personnel and feel a sense of belonging in the school environment. It is this sense of being connected, security or feeling safe that is essential for students of all ages to progress emotionally, socially and academically.

Copyright Learning and Wellness L+W (2017)