Deep Dives

3 Back-to-School SEL Tips for Families

August 23, 2023
3 Back-to-School SEL Tips for Families

Back-to-school season is here! It’s time to sharpen pencils, pack backpacks, and meet the teacher. Beyond the logistics of school supplies and first-day-of-school outfits, we also need to prepare our children to thrive socially, emotionally, and academically this school year.

Going back to school is a major transition that brings both excitement and anxiety. With social and emotional learning (SEL), families can ensure that children feel connected and supported as they head back to school. SEL also helps families equip children with skills like planning and problem-solving, so they’re empowered to navigate the school year successfully.

In this post, we’ll share three ways for parents, caregivers, and other family members to get started with SEL this school year. These strategies are based on our printable SEL tips for families, developed with the Leading with SEL coalition. You can download in English or in Spanish.

1. Stay connected.

Feeling connected, loved, and supported can help your child return to school with more confidence. For example:

  • Make extra time to connect with your child as the new school year starts.
  • Create a simple daily routine, like eating a snack together or sharing one good thing about your day over dinner or at bedtime.
  • Invite your child to share how they’re feeling about going back to school–and listen!
  • Share some of your own favorite memories from school.
  • Check your own emotions, which can impact how children feel. Model calmness and share what you’re looking forward to.

2. Help them make a plan and problem-solve.

Talk to your child about how the school day will go so they know what to expect every step of the way. Feeling more prepared will also help them feel more confident. If problems arise, listen to your child and help them brainstorm solutions.

  • Involve your child in making a plan for school days, from how they’ll get ready to what will happen after school. For older children, also make a homework plan.
  • Make time to listen to your child about how school is going and how they’re feeling about friends and teachers.
  • Empower them to solve problems with open-ended questions like:
    • Why do you think that happened?
    • How might you do this differently next time?
    • What could you do to make the situation better? What do you think will happen if…?
    • Have you ever seen a problem like this before? If so, how did you solve it?

3. Keep communication lines open.

Positive partnerships between families and schools improve children’s academic achievement, social competencies, and emotional well-being. 

  • Let your child’s teacher know that you want to partner with them and play a role in your child’s education. Share your contact information and the best way to reach you.
  • Share any important information you want your child’s teacher to know about them.
  • Ask what you can do at home to support the social, emotional, and academic development that’s happening at school.

More SEL Resources for Families:

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