The first time I truly grasped my son’s social and emotional struggles was during a Kindergarten STEM class. However, from birth, his incessantly active mind never allowed for rest. As he grew, his analytical nature became evident – toys meticulously lined up, passing obsessions, motor ticks, and sensory challenges. Diagnosed with Tourette’s at age 2, he carried additional labels of ADD, OCD, sensory issues, and ticks, all genetically predisposed.
At home, he flourished as his authentic self, surrounded by understanding parents who embraced his uniqueness. Yet, outside the familiar haven, particularly at school, his exceptional mind hindered social connections with peers, leading to emotional struggles.
A pivotal moment occurred when his teacher, citing his “inability to cooperate,” requested my presence during a STEM activity. Observing the class, chaos ensued, but most children cooperatively engaged in the activity. Contrarily, my son struggled, eventually erupting in frustration and tears. It became clear that he faced social and emotional challenges within the educational framework.
Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) involves five crucial components: Self-awareness, Self-management, Social awareness, Relationship skills, and Responsible Decision making (CASEL.org). These encompass everything from recognizing emotions to managing them, forming a comprehensive skill set.
While SEL is incorporated in schools worldwide, its roots must be nurtured at home, guided by Biblical principles. Verses like Colossians 3:12, promoting empathy, or 1 Peter 3:8, emphasizing teamwork, provide a strong foundation. Biblical teachings enhance SEL by preserving moral and religious roots.
For children like my son, who may perceive the world differently due to neurological differences, SEL is especially vital. Public schools, social interactions, and sibling relationships become arenas where practicing social and emotional skills is crucial. Like manners, these skills can be honed at home before entering the broader social sphere.
SEL is an ongoing process that requires cultivation. Parents, particularly those without a childhood SEL foundation, can rely on available resources, with the Bible being a profound guide. Combining SEL with biblical teachings fosters a holistic approach to emotional and social development.
The struggle with SEL is not a recent phenomenon. Humans aren’t inherently equipped with the abilities to cope, reason, set goals, communicate effectively, or understand the consequences of personal behavior. Life experiences shape our social and emotional skill set. When teaching SEL, looking inward and turning to God provides a strong starting point. Today, my son, at 13, remains intelligent and well-rounded. While he still grapples with conflict resolution, he leans on Scripture as his cornerstone, viewing his intellectual differences as a gift.
Brittany Stewart, an accomplished writer and educator, draws inspiration from her 23-year marriage and upbringing near Lake Tahoe in Verdi, Nevada, now residing in Tucson, Arizona. With her Bachelor’s degree in Education, emphasizing Native American Literature and Journalism, Brittany is a multifaceted professional who is also a Licensed Massage Therapist. She is deeply involved in Tucson’s homeschooling community, leading a homeschool group, teaching dance, and offering art classes. She and her family have a homestead in Southern Arizona, where her husband hunts and she tends to the garden, emphasizing the importance of God and family in her life while continually seeking adventure through her travels.