Social Emotional Learning Skills by Grade Level: Part III

As discussed in parts one and two, social emotional learning (SEL) skills have become an even greater focus now that students are limited in their opportunities to socialize, collaborate, and communicate with peers in person at school. By the time students reach middle school, the basic foundational skills for social-emotional intelligence are in place. Preteens and teenagers are now ready to face greater obstacles and challenges, especially with regard to peer relationships, stress, and self-motivation. To meet new benchmarks, students in middle and high school must learn to deal with more significant academic struggles, greater peer influences, ever-changing teenage social dynamics, and their own personal growth and development at the same time. Below is our continued list of specific grade-level SEL standards for middle schoolers and high schoolers.

Middle School

Students should begin to recognize circumstances and situations that cause extra or unnecessary stress; they should begin to adopt strategies to help with motivation, stress management, and task completion. Middle schoolers should begin to recognize the benefits of strong self-advocacy skills and how to best utilize the resources and supports that are at their disposal. For instance, if schools offer after–school homework help, students who know that they struggle to complete assignments on their own should take initiative by signing up for the club/program and making a point to attend.

Since learning to set goals in elementary school, middle schoolers should now be equipped to assess the validity of their goals so that they may make more informed, realistic, and specific goals moving forward. They should also be able to determine why they were able to reach success or not, i.e., What helped them to reach their goal? If they didn’t reach it, then why not? What prohibited them from finding success? By middle school, students should not only be able to recognize other people’s emotions, feelings, or perspectives, but they should be able to surmise why they feel or think that way. In this sense, they’re activating the ability to take another’s perspective that they learned in elementary school, then further expanding on that by making inferences.

Preteens not only recognize cultural differences, but they should begin to acknowledge how certain cultural differences can result in some peers being ostracized or bullied. They should then be able to begin to find ways to combat or address the bullying and/or to make others feel included and recognized. Middle schoolers should be well-aware of group dynamics and what it takes to ensure the success of the group. This includes assigning roles, taking responsibility, sharing the workload, cooperating with others, etc.

Students in the middle school grades should be aware of negative peer pressure, what it looks like, sounds like, and feels like. They should also be able to come up with ways to combat negative peer pressure in non– confrontational ways and under various circumstances. Preteens should be considering their decision-making in terms of others. Before making an important decision, they should consider not only how they will benefit from their choice, but how it could impact others as well.

High School

High schoolers should begin to understand how expressing one’s own emotions/feelings can have both positive and negative impacts on others. For example, as young adults, they need to know that positivity begets positivity, especially when emotions are running high. High schoolers will also have developed the ability to multitask by this point. However, more than multitasking, HS students should be able to shift back and forth between various tasks and under wavering conditions or circumstances. For instance, if completing a chapter review for English, a high schooler may need to answer a phone call or walk the dog to then return to the chapter questions later. Perhaps they need to maintain focus on several different homework assignments while working from a bustling coffee shop.

Students in high school should be able to capitalize on their strengths and think creatively when facing a challenge. This ability connects with problem-solving skills and ingenuity. We can’t all be great at everything, but in what way can we use our personal/individual strengths to make challenging tasks easier? This is key for college and career readiness. High schoolers should also be thinking about setting goals for the future after graduation. College is not the “end all be all.” But if college isn’t their plan, then what is? Young adults need to recognize how important it is to find a path, take steps to follow that path, and evaluate their progress, preferences, and goals as they go. If they want to take a gap year, what do they hope to accomplish during that year? If they are going to study abroad, how will they decide on a program and pay for it? What skill set do they plan to use for supplementary income while in or out of college?

High schoolers should be capable of showing respect for those with opposing or differing viewpoints, even if the opposing side is argumentative, dismissive, rude, etc. It is important to maintain a level of self-control even when others are not. Just because someone has a different opinion doesn’t mean they are wrong or right in their convictions. As young adults soon to be out on their own in the adult world, it is critical that high schoolers recognize how we must all be concerned about the well-being of all people; we may all be different races, but we’re all part of the human race. Therefore, we can positively contribute to our communities by advocating for human rights.

High schoolers should be able to assess their ability to actively listen and explain how active listening helps with conflict resolution. They should also be able to demonstrate leadership abilities within group contexts without dominating or overtaking the goal of the group. Young adults should also be prepared to demonstrate knowledge of social norms and appropriate behaviors between and among various cultural groups. They should recognize certain expectations and norms when interacting with authority figures, children, elders, etc.

Thus, we have completed our three-part series on SEL skills by grade level. The following series will serve best as a helpful resource rather than a scare-tactic of sorts. We all develop in our own ways, but it’s important we be mindful of these skills by grade level. If your child or student seems behind on any of these, consider the ways in which you can empower them.

Out of Touch? 5 Ways to Reconnect with Your Child

No matter how close you and your children are, there are always dry spells where the relationships seem strained. With parents working, children going to school, and all of the home dynamics, it is understandable that parents and their kids can disconnect.

According to a survey by USA Today, mothers in America spend an average of 13.5 hours a week with their children. American fathers only average about 7.3 hours. Even with hectic schedules, you can find creative ways to spend quality time with your children. Here are a few reconnecting suggestions:

1. Share Events In Each Other’s Day

You only get a few minutes each day in the morning with your kids before they rush off to school and you head to work. There are a lot of events that happen during your eight hours apart that are worthy to discuss. If you pick your children up from school, the ride home is an ideal time to ask them questions about their day. Ask if they learned anything new today. What was their favorite event of the day? Do they have a best friend? Did something negative happen and they were able to overcome it? You may also add a few things about your day to empathize with the kids. These questions not only create bonding conversation, but it also provides essential information about what is going on in your children’s lives. There may be some issues that you need to address.

2. Let Your Kids Help In The Kitchen

Most people agree that the kitchen is the heart of the home. As more Americans are cooking meals and eating out less, it allows for quality family time. You can use meal preparation as a way of teaching your kids about cooking and nutrition. Children of all ages are usually fascinated with how ingredients are mixed to create a fabulous dish.

Parents have to consider the ages of their children and what limitations they have. Younger children are content just to watch and ask questions while you are cooking. School age kids have the ability to help with some of the preparation. It is a good time to learn about measuring and math skills. With a little guidance, high school students can prepare most of a meal themselves. There is a special connection around the family table as you share food that you prepared together.

3. Get Outside And Have Some Fun

Nature is one of our greatest teachers. When families explore the great outdoors, it is an incredible bonding time. There have been struggling families who had their relationships restored through wilderness therapy. There is something about fresh air and feeling a connection with the earth that prepares our hearts to listen, to forgive, and to love again. You and your kids can have an awesome time in a national forest, a public park, or your own backyard. Natural elements promote curiosity and conversation.

4. Institute A Family Game Night

Do you remember all of those fun board games you played as a child? Designate one evening a week to play games with your kids. Turn off all of the technology and just enjoy each other’s company with some friendly competition. Find a variety of classic board games that are age appropriate. You may also have fun teaching your kids how to play different card games. Pop a big bowl of popcorn and let the games begin!

5. Enjoy Favorite Books At Bedtime

According to statistics from the National Education Association, children whose parents read to them on a daily basis have greater advantages over those children who do not have these reading times. The best way to foster a love for reading is to show your children how much you enjoy it. Find age appropriate books and share stories with your kids every night. It is a great way to wind your child down for the night, while the two of you share a special time. As your kids get older, let them read some of the stories to you. Your children will get practice in reading and the two of you can reconnect.

Parenting Troubled Teens: Indications of their Cry for Help


It can sometimes be difficult for parents to determine the difference between normal teenage mood swings and having a troubled teen. Therefore, it is imperative to learn which signs to look for to help you figure out if your teenager needs you to intervene or simply give them some space. Fortunately, most troubled teens will give several indicators if they need help due to emotional or even legal difficulties.

1. Emotional Issues

Every teenager will battle with the occasional emotional instability that accompanies hormonal changes and dealing with peer pressure. However, it is estimated that at least 4,600 teenagers commit suicide in the U.S. on an annual basis, and every parent needs to be aware that issues such as sleeping all of the time and changing hygiene habits can be indicators that something is seriously wrong.

Sadly, you cannot rely on your teen to openly discuss this problem with you, so you need to carefully monitor their behavior so that you can take steps to assist them if necessary. Keep in mind that they might be resistant to the idea of discussing their problems, but getting them to open up to someone they trust or a trained counselor can help improve their outlook on life.

2. Legal Issues 

There are several different things that can cause a teenager to get into legal trouble, including drug usage, shoplifting and drinking and driving. Therefore, you need to be involved enough to recognize the symptoms of all of these risky behaviors. For example, someone who has been abusing drugs or alcohol is likely to exhibit mood changes, dropping grades and a tendency to be more secretive than usual. Additionally, if your teen starts wearing clothing that you have never seen before, this could mean that they have started shoplifting.

Unfortunately, any illegal activity could easily cause your teenager to get into legal trouble. If this happens, you need to provide them with emotional and legal support, and it is critical to hire an experienced lawyer. As stated by Kevin W DeVore, a Minnesota criminal defense attorney experienced in juvenile law, “Achieving a favorable outcome and minimizing or avoiding consequences after you’ve been accused of a crime is possible, but you should have a knowledgeable and caring advocate protecting your rights and fighting for you.” Your attorney should have a firm understanding of how to represent your teen’s case so they will have a much better chance of getting an acquittal or the minimum possible penalties.

3. Health Issues 

Some troubled teens are simply struggling with an undiagnosed health issue that is impacting their ability to live a normal life. ADHD is a common problem that can prevent sufferers from properly focusing on their schoolwork, and it could also cause them to lash out in frustration. Due to this, if your teenager seems to be having a difficult time staying focused and completing tasks, you should definitely consider taking them to a doctor for a checkup.

As you can see, there are many issues that can impact your teen, and it is highly likely that they will try to hide these problems from you. Fortunately, you can still take action to help them as long as you pay close attention to all of the potential indicators of an issue such as declining grades, hygiene issues and secretive behavior. 

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