Social Emotional Learning and the Middle Years

Many of us understand the importance of social emotional learning (SEL), along with its many benefits and positive outcomes. What is different about social emotional learning in the Middle Years?

According to Dr. Jean Clinton, social emotional learning is an ongoing developmental process. While SEL is essential for children under six, in terms of starting to develop competencies and capacities, it is during the middle years and through adolescence that the development of these capacities become much richer and deeper.

During middle childhood:

  • Children become more aware of themselves, their emotions and those of others.
  • Friendships begin to take on a more important role and they begin to develop social skills that they will likely use through adulthood.
  • The brain develops more complexity. Children begin to better understand and interpret the emotional displays of other children, increasing their ability to empathize.
  • Children become more aware of ‘self-conscious emotions’ such as guilt, pride, and shame, and are able to reflect on their own behaviors.
  • This is also a time when they begin to develop personal identity and the development of their overall self-image and self-esteem.

Given this stage of development, social emotional learning becomes more robust during middle childhood, according to Dr. Clinton. For instance, as children in the middle years expand their ability to reflect on their own behaviors, capacities and competencies around self-awareness becomes much richer. Another example is the increased competencies for decision making in the middle years. In early childhood children may begin learning competencies around decision making as they learn to make simple decisions. In middle childhood these competencies evolve and bloom to a more dynamic decision making, which includes responsible decision making and risk taking.

Check out this short video that further explains social and emotional development in the middle years:

Interested in learning more? The Middle Childhood Matters Coalition Toronto has put together a list of Research and Reports, as well as a list of articles that identify common characteristics of high quality programs. Also, do check out social emotional learning resources and discussions on the Knowledge Centre!

Are you a parent looking for tips to support your children’s social emotional skills? Check out this resource, out of Tennessee, that provides parents with tips to support social emotional development for each age group. Social Emotional Development for ages 6-7; for ages 8-10; for ages 11-13.

Do you know of other resources for parents and service providers? Please share!