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Teaching Strategies for Learners with Social and Emotional Needs

Building social and emotional competence is beneficial to every child’s well-being. When they feel emotionally supported and socially connected, they can focus better on their studies.

Some of the best alternatives for improving mental health that parents and caregivers may use include essential oils, meditation, breathing techniques, and yoga.

Meanwhile, educators employ some teaching strategies to help address the social and emotional needs of children.

An educator’s strategy for teaching social-emotional skills plays a valuable role in a child's well-rounded and balanced education.

Be Attentive to Every Child’s Needs

Be attentive to every child’s social-emotional skills and unique needs. Tailor your lessons and interventions to help them develop these skills.

Your presence and attention as a teacher can be a source of confidence for a child dealing with difficult life circumstances. Giving positive attention is important for their self-image and development.

Guide them as you build their trust, letting them know that you are there to help.

Some learners may need additional support to feel self-assured and secure. Make sure that the learning environment is responsive to their social and emotional needs.

Enhance Emotional Literacy

Emotional literacy refers to one’s ability to identify, understand, and express emotions in a healthy way. Studies have shown that emotionally literate students perform better in school(1).

Children who do not learn how to communicate using emotional language may find it difficult to label their feelings. They may also find it challenging to relate to how other people feel.

It is important to teach children emotional literacy to boost their self-esteem, develop self-confidence, and encourage emotional self-management over impulse reactions.

Here are various strategies you can use to enhance every child’s emotional literacy:

  • Label and model different emotions, both positive and negative. Stress the importance of learning those emotions and teach children the appropriate ways of expressing them.
  • Teach children how to recognize their and other people’s emotions. Give a scenario and ask them to describe how they would feel if they were in that situation.
  • Validate children’s emotions, allowing them to talk about how they feel. Reassure them with your undivided attention.
  • Provide children with strategies they can use when they are angry or upset, such as squeezing a stress ball, squishing playdough, doing jumping jacks, writing someone a letter, and jumping on a trampoline.

These strategies will help them calm down and provide a healthy outlet for unpleasant emotions.

Develop Friendship Skills

Through friendships, children learn how to interact, relate, and work with others.

Friendships also give children many opportunities to learn and practice sharing, cooperation, taking turns, and resolving conflict.

Below are some ways you can develop children’s friendship skills:

  • Model appropriate friendship skills through your interactions with children and adults.
  • Plan different activities to specifically teach friendship skills, like helping others, sharing, waiting for one’s turn, and teamwork.
  • Make positive comments about children who work together and help each other. Encourage other learners to do the same.
  • Use a buddy system to promote support and collaboration. For instance, if a child struggles with a particular subject, assign someone knowledgeable about the subject to work with them.
  • Have students work in a group setting. Children will learn how to negotiate with their peers, develop leadership skills, and figure out their strengths to contribute to the group.            

Identify Feelings in Self and Others

Empathy is the capacity to identify and understand the situation and feelings of others(2). Empathy involves being sensitive to the emotions of others and responding appropriately.

Teach children how to develop their ability to distinguish their own feelings from the feelings of others. Teaching empathy plays a significant role in building children’s emotional literacy skills.

As their teacher, you can help students become more aware of their emotions and use that awareness to understand others.

  • Model and reinforce different behaviors related to empathy.
  • Do “alike” and “different” activities to show interconnectedness and uniqueness among individuals.
  • Encourage students to pay attention to how their peers feel. Give children opportunities to check up on one another.
  • Activities like role-playing and role reversals teach children how to put themselves in other people’s situations.

Develop Problem-Solving Skills

Problem-solving and conflict resolution are essential skills in developing children’s social-emotional competence.

When a problem arises, teach children how to handle the situation appropriately and find a solution. It will help reduce any impulsive behavior or aggression.

Here are some strategies to develop children’s problem-solving skills:

  • Identify the problem. Stating the problem aloud can sometimes make a huge difference for a child who is feeling stuck or overwhelmed.
  • Help children hone their problem-solving skills by allowing them to think and generate multiple solutions to common classroom challenges.
  • Encourage brainstorming. Even a silly idea or far-fetched answer is a possible solution.
  • Recognize and give feedback to learners who have been “good problem solvers.”
  • Teach children that every solution has its consequence. Role-playing activities may help children understand this lesson better.

Written by Stanley Clark, Education World® Contributing Writer

Copyright© 2020 Education World


1.            Chew, B. H., Zain, A. M., & Hassan, F. (2013). Emotional intelligence and academic performance in first and final year medical students: a cross-sectional study. BMC medical education, 13(1), 44.

2.   Greater Good Magazine. (Accessed 2020). What is Empathy?