Constructing a foundation of social and emotional success is now widely understood to provide the building blocks toward academic and life-long success. Nine school districts in Massachusetts, in apparent recognition of the outcomes that such instruction can bring, recently collaborated to implement social and emotional curricula for their students. While our state should be commended for being cognizant of the important role that social and emotional learning plays in children’s development, are we targeting children early enough?
Brain development occurs rapidly within the first three years of life. We waste valuable time by waiting until our children are six to begin teaching social and emotional competencies. A proactive, rather than reactive, approach that begins in a child’s first three years allows children to more effectively cultivate social and emotional constructs, while supporting primary caregivers and educators as they scaffold young minds.
This approach is encased and embraced by neuroscience. The Harvard Center for the Developing Child frequently author articles and working papers regarding these topics, reiterating the imperativeness of the first three years of development.
In day-to-day interactions at our lab school Beginnings School and Child Development Center, teaching social and emotional constructs beginning from birth has been shown to have a profound impact on our children. Children are better able to regulate and express their emotions, become sensitive and empathic to the emotions of others, solve problems, and are more prepared to successfully enter kindergarten.
At a time when social and emotional learning is an emerging priority in K-12 education, shifting our attention toward promoting social and emotional constructs from birth has never been more relevant.