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How to Best Identify and Support Students with Social-Emotional Needs

Have Your Students Trained You?

School faculty members know a range of techniques for helping to support the educational needs of their students, but what about the social-emotional needs? Far too many students are struggling with social-emotional needs, yet teachers are unaware or uncertain of how to handle them. Often, these students can be severely withdrawn from their peers or they can have a hard time following the rules and procedures of the classroom. So how can we identify and support students with social-emotional needs?

Start Looking for Warning Signs the Student Is Struggling

First and foremost, it’s important to know the warning signs that signify the student is struggling with social or emotional troubles. Here’s a few important things to look for:

1. They have poor concentration and trouble completing tasks or assignments.

2. They are withdrawn with minimal or no friends.

3. They seem anxious, or even fearful at times.

4. They are increasingly absent or late to class without reason.

5. They seem overly energetic, aggressive, or otherwise difficult to manage.

Once you’re aware of the warning signs, you can use the proper strategies to help students overcome their social-emotional struggles, and in turn, thrive in and out of the classroom.


Use the Proper Strategies to Help the Student Thrive

Students that are struggling can be more difficult to handle, but the right support and guidance can make a world of difference in their life. Here’s a few do’s and don’ts to help you employ a strategy that works:


  • Stay calm: Students who are struggling will test you to see if you’re going to be there when they need you. Stay calm when they’re acting out and always focus on encouraging them to be their best self.

  • Make learning enjoyable: As much as possible, try to make learning enjoyable for them. Distress often makes us lose motivation, so try to establish links between the curriculum and their interests.

  • Help them connect with others: Try to encourage cooperative learning, peer tutoring, and other group activities that help improve interpersonal skills, and in turn, help them connect with others.

  • Identify potential mental illnesses: Many adolescents experience depression and anxiety. Know the symptoms, and if you recognize them, try to work with the student to help manage the symptoms or speak to a school counselor.



  • Take it personally: As mentioned, students that are struggling will test you. Don’t take it personally. Take a breath and keep treating them as fair as possible, even when they’re misbehaving.

  • Let them get away with misbehaving: There’s a fine line between treating them fairly and letting them get away with misbehavior. Don’t bend the rules and ignore things that aren’t okay for other students to do.

  • Feel defeated if there’s no improvement: An adult offering support and guidance can make a huge difference but don’t get defeated if what you’re doing isn’t working. Be patient, consistent, and adjust strategies when needed.



When it comes to identifying and supporting the social-emotional needs of students, it’s difficult, intimidating, and sometimes, downright exhausting. However, students that are struggling need our support to learn, grow, and feel like they have someone on their side. It’s well worth the time and effort put into recognizing the warning signs and employing the proper strategies.

INcompassing Education offers on-site, off-site, and online professional development for teachers. Join our online course on Supporting Mental Health Needs in a School Setting or contact us to learn more.

You can also check out these resources:



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