Family night focused on social-emotional skills

Krystle Wagner • Mar 24, 2018 at 6:00 PM

GRAND HAVEN TWP. — Parents gained insight on how they can continue to support their children during a family night earlier this week at Peach Plains Elementary School.

About 50 families participated in the March 20 event, where they learned more about the Second Step curriculum and strategies to support their child’s social-emotional needs.

In January, the school hosted a family literacy night. Parents indicated they were interested in having an opportunity to get together about social-emotional support, said Jennifer Kenny, a literacy coach for Grand Haven Area Public Schools.

Peach Plains Principal Kate Drake said they feel it’s their responsibility to give parents information about what students are learning and give them opportunities to also practice it with their children.

Through Second Step, students in Young Fives through fourth grade receive lessons in units such as skills for learning, empathy, emotion management, friendship skills and problem solving. In the word “step,” “s” stands for saying the problem without blame, “t” is for thinking of solutions, “e” stands for exploring the consequences,” and the “p” stands for picking the best solution.

The lessons use puppets, songs, posters, videos and scenarios to help students learn, said Cady Haveman, a Young Fives teacher.

As parents learned more about Second Step, they had a chance to talk about their own children overcoming strong emotions. Parents also worked through how they would guide their children through different situations they might encounter.

“There was a lot of great conversation throughout the night,” Haveman said.

While parents learned strategies in the school’s gym, students participated in their own social-emotional lessons specific to their age level.

In the class with children in grades 3-8, one student built something and they described to their partner how to build the same thing without using colors. Kenny said they discussed the emotions and frustration and anxiety they felt trying to complete the task.

Kenny said they wanted to give children a fun experience while giving them a chance to think about emotional health in a different way.

Educators also spoke with parents about using books as a way to teach some of the skills and reinforce lessons. Haveman said reading can provide a natural way for families to stop, look at problems facing the characters and think of solutions.

After joining together for ice cream, families practiced the strategies by reading “Pig the Pug” by Aaron Blabey.

In addition to other resources, parents received a list of recommended books they could read with their children. They could also check out books from the school’s library.

Kenny said she hopes families are proactive and teach their children how to handle tough situations so they are equipped with skills to handle conflict or when emotions run high.

Haveman said they want to support the whole child, and social-emotional learning is the foundation.

“I think the partnership between home and schools is so powerful,” she said.

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