It’s now been over two months since schools closed in Boston and learning transitioned to the home. In our community and beyond, parents and educators are concerned about gaps in academic learning that will result from time away from teachers and barriers to remote schooling.
But kids learn more at school than just reading and math. Whether students are in the classroom, on the playground, or walking through halls, schools provide kids with opportunities to learn and practice the social-emotional skills they need to cope with stress, build relationships, and understand the world around them. During this time of uncertainty and isolation, it’s essential that kids feel supported and engaged. That is why Playworks is committed to providing #PlayAtHome resources to ensure that kids are able to play and learn critical social and emotional skills at home every day.
Our featured #PlayAtHome Social-Emotional Skills of the Week are Social Awareness and Perspective-Taking.
Social awareness is the ability to empathize with and understand the perspective of someone else, even though their background and culture might be different from yours.
Perspective-taking is the ability to see a situation from the viewpoint of another person–understanding their feelings, intentions, thoughts, or view of a particular situation.
At school, kids practice social awareness and perspective-taking every day. When resolving conflicts, educators help students practice empathy by teaching them to put themselves in someone else’s shoes. Role models like teachers, paraprofessionals, and Playworks Coaches model these skills by standing up for kids who are teased, providing extra academic support when they notice a student is struggling, or simply listening to a student who is feeling down.
Skills like social awareness and perspective-taking are essential in helping kids form strong friendships and understand their strengths and weaknesses. Children who show empathy are less likely to bully their classmates. Because it is much easier to feel empathy for those who are similar to us or in close proximity to us, it is more important than ever that caregivers support kids to understand the perspectives of those who look and act differently from them or have different experiences at home.
Here are some ways adults can support kids to practice social awareness, perspective-taking, and empathy at home:
- Read books with your kids and talk about how the characters are feeling and reacting. Identify the emotions and then talk about why the character feels that way or how you know.
- Talk about your own emotions with your kids. Label your feelings explain what made you feel that way. If you have negative emotions, talk about what would help you to feel better.
- If a conflict arises, ask your child to think about how the other person might be feeling. For example, if your child takes a toy away from their sibling, ask “how would you feel if your sibling took your favorite toy away from you?”
- Identify a neighbor who might be going through a difficult time. Think of ways you might be able to help. For example, pick up groceries for an elderly neighbor or write a letter to a neighbor who is living alone and might be feeling isolated.
- For older children, talk about reading body language and using perspective-taking to determine if someone is hiding their real feelings. Explain how sarcasm and figurative language are ways the people may say one thing but mean something else.
Playworks has a number of weekly #PlayAtHome resources, from games to social-emotional learning activities, that can help your kids practice these important skills at home. And don’t forget to tune in to our #PlayAtHome Live Recess Streams (M-F, 10-15 min., 12 pm, 2 pm, and 4 pm EST) on Facebook!