(English translation available after the Chinese article)
這些種種因疫情關係的轉變，對兒童社會情感學習（Social Emotional Learning）有甚麼影響？
甚麼是社會情感學習（Social Emotional Learning）
The Impact of the Pandemic on a Child’s Social Emotional Learning
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected the world for more than one and a half years since January 2020. During this time, Hong Kong’s children have experienced about one year of school suspension. (The suspension time varies for different ages from half a year to one year on average)
Many public facilities were temporarily closed during this pandemic, including children’s playgrounds, indoor children’s playrooms, and libraries. Parents were also worried about their children getting infected so they reduced the frequency of taking their children out and had fewer gatherings with relatives and friends.
With all of these changes, how does this affect a child’s social emotional learning?
What is Social Emotional Learning?
According to a lecture held by the South China Morning Post, the speaker pointed out that social emotional learning refers to understanding, learning and recognizing one’s own emotions as well as knowing the relationship between one’s emotions and others. This also includes the ability to handle the expectations and needs of others even if these expectations and the needs conflict with one’s own needs. Children also need to learn to understand and respond to other people’s emotions.
How has this pandemic affected the children’s social emotional learning?
- Children miss out on in person social experience
Children need in person social experiences with elders, teachers, classmates, and friends of their own age, to learn to interact with others, make friends and share things.
When they are in class, children can learn the classroom rules, be polite to others, respect others, get along with people of different personalities, and express their own needs and feelings.
During the pandemic, children cannot go to school and cannot have playdates. Even if they connect with friends’ online meetings, this cannot compensate for the loss of in person experience of being with people other than their parents.
- Emotional development is affected
Children need to learn how to express emotions through social interaction.
When playing with friends, if another snatches your toys, the child will feel unhappy and angry but how should they express themselves? On the other hand, if they take others’ toys causing them to be unhappy and angry, how should they comfort the other person’s emotions?
Children cannot get along with their peers during the pandemic and as a result, have fewer opportunities to learn about emotions. Thus, their emotional development will be slower than before the pandemic, especially for young children.
- Missing out on important experiences
Always being stuck at home and unable to go out to play, and missing out on a lot of family and friend’s gatherings means losing out on a lot of happy experiences such as large birthday parties, family outings, participation in other people’s weddings, etc.
Older children may feel lost or even sad because of this.
Younger kids may not have strong feelings, but because they are stuck at home for a long time and cannot go out to “discharge” their energy and emotions, this might cause them to suppress their emotion and not know how to express their feelings.
How can parents help their children establish social and emotional learning during the epidemic?
- Recognize and accept children’s emotions
When your child has negative emotions, help him/her recognize that emotion. For example: Are you unhappy? Are you angry?
At the same time, parents should express acceptance of their children’s emotions so that children can learn different emotions. They can then feel free to express their emotions without suppressing their emotions.
- Set aside a period of time every day to talk to your children about their emotions
Parents should set aside a period of time every day for their children to talk about their emotions. How do you feel today? What are your emotions? What caused you to have these emotions? How do you deal with these emotions?
Overtime, children will feel safe and be more willing to talk to their parents when they have concerns, express their emotions, and learn the correct way to deal with emotions through sharing.
- Cultivate children’s habit of gratitude
We will always encounter situations that we are not happy with. But if we focus on the unhappy situation and ignore being thankful for what we do have, we are likely to become more depressed.
Learning to be grateful will increase our sense of happiness, and it can also help us overcome difficulties and become mentally stronger. Every day, we should ask our children what is worthy of gratitude? Eating a delicious dinner; hearing your favorite music, when the weather is good and you can go to the playground to play, etc.
A small situation can also be a grateful moment so the child will learn not take everything for granted. When encountering issues, their emotions will not be so easily knocked down.
Let’s hope our children can become mentally strong!
All the contents published in this article are personal opinions and do not represent the opinions and views of Little Monkey Hong Kong.
About the Author
Scarlett is a working mom with a 4-year-old son, who knows the challenges encountered by working parents. She would like to share some thoughts on parenthood that may serve as support and encouragement for moms and dads.