Restoring what the pandemic took: Social and emotional learning for kids

Relationships take center stage in social and emotional learning programs -- known in education as SEL.

This story is the first in a series looking at ways we can help our children restore, with patience and love, some of what the pandemic has taken away.

(CNN)I used to be a bit cynical about social and emotional learning programs, or SEL as they are known in educational circles.

My 9-year-old's previous school tried to teach him skills such as self-regulation and empathy, but in practice the whole thing felt like just another item on his busy teacher's daily checklist. The kids would rush through an eight-minute breathing exercise, only to be rushed off to their 10-minute lunch and 10-minute recess. I suspected they would learn more, socially and emotionally speaking, from extra time spent eating and playing -- and by skipping the mini-meditation.
But when my son switched schools last year, I saw how effective SEL can be. Like most kids, he entered the 2021-22 school year socially and emotionally bruised by the pandemic. His ability to trust educators, the academic process and his peers, and to motivate himself and take responsibility for his actions, had all bee