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Key Takeaways:

  • Social-emotional learning is essential for children to develop self-awareness and healthy relationship skills and improve academic performance.
  • SEL entails five components—self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making.
  • Teachers and parents can incorporate SEL into their children’s learning though explicit instructions, role-playing, and leading by example.

Children who develop healthy social-emotional skills are more likely to succeed academically and professionally. But new parents may ask: what is social-emotional learning, and how can I use this to help my child become more self-aware?

This guide will provide a comprehensive look at social-emotional skills and how they can help students become more productive, socially aware, and more in tune with their thoughts and emotions.

What is Social-Emotional Learning (SEL)?

Social-emotional learning (SEL) involves developing self-awareness, self-control, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making. SEL aims to foster children’s abilities to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.

Why is SEL Important in Education?

Social-emotional learning in the classroom is vital for education. It improves academic performance through conducive learning environments, fosters essential life skills like communication and teamwork, nurtures emotional well-being, and promotes long-term success.

What are the Five Core Competencies of SEL?

According to the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL), SEL involves five core competencies, which include the following.


Children must understand their emotions, strengths, weaknesses, values, and goals to develop self-confidence and improve their behavior.


When children manage their stress, control their impulses, and regulate their emotions, they create a more conducive environment for setting and working toward goals. Self-managed kids have a more positive outlook.

Social Awareness

Socially aware children can understand and empathize with others by recognizing and appreciating their feelings and differences. They can navigate social situations effectively.

Relationship Skills

Through SEL, children learn to establish and maintain healthy relationships. They can communicate clearly, cooperate, listen actively, negotiate conflicts constructively, and resist inappropriate social pressures.

Responsible Decision-Making

Kids skilled in responsible decision-making can make thoughtful and constructive choices about personal and social behavior. They must consider the well-being of others and evaluate the potential consequences of their actions.

How Does SEL Benefit Children?

SEL benefits children by making them more confident in themselves and the classroom. Research shows that SEL consistently improves academic success and a child’s ability to manage stress [*].

Children engaged in SEL also improve academically, with programs seeing an 11% increase in grades and performance [*]. Studies also show an average decrease of 5 to 12% in dropout rates associated with SEL [*]. Academic achievements typically improve by 13% [*].

SEL also closes equity gaps, with research demonstrating that long-term benefits are consistent among various demographic groups.

How Can Teachers Incorporate SEL in Their Classrooms?

Educators can integrate social-emotional learning in the classroom by introducing lessons on identifying, labeling, and managing feelings, expanding emotional vocabularies, and considering the perspectives of others.

However, teachers must also reinforce these lessons in the classroom beyond standalone activities. Their overall school culture must be committed to engaging in SEL. For instance, teachers must reinforce healthy conflict resolution in real time if student conflicts happen. They can do this with the help of our conflict resolution poster.

Teachers can also perform daily check-ins before and after class to encourage students to communicate their feelings.

Curriculum-wise, teachers can engage students in collaborative activities like group projects, peer teaching, and problem-solving tasks.

What Role Do Parents Play in Supporting SEL at Home?

Parents play a crucial role in supporting SEL at home by fostering environments that encourage the development of essential skills. They can model positive behavior by demonstrating empathy, active listening, and effective communication within the family. Engaging in regular conversations about their and their children's emotions helps create an open atmosphere where discussing feelings is normalized.

Encouraging problem-solving skills and teaching conflict-resolution techniques through daily interactions or when conflicts arise among siblings or family members also reinforces SEL.

Additionally, parents can integrate SEL practices into everyday routines by setting aside time for activities that promote mindfulness, such as family relaxation exercises or gratitude practices during meal times. Parents can reinforce mindfulness within the household through our DBT Mindfulness Skills handout.

Collaborating with teachers to align efforts between home and school ensures a consistent approach to nurturing social and emotional development, creating a supportive network that enhances a child's overall SEL growth.

How Do You Measure the Impact of SEL Programs?

Measuring the impact of SEL programs involves a multifaceted approach that combines various assessment tools and methods. Teachers can take quantitative measures in school through standardized testing, surveys, and behavioral observation. Tracking academic outcomes, attendance rates, and disciplinary incidents provides insights into the correlation between SEL interventions and overall school performance.

In addition, teachers can use IDELA, ISELA, and HALDO, assessment tools used in early childhood education, to measure various developmental domains in young children.

IDELA provides teachers and educators with insights into children's strengths and areas needing additional support, enabling targeted interventions to promote holistic development.

ISELA measures components like caregiver-child interactions, the learning environment, and program organization.

HALDO provides a holistic view of a child's progress and development across multiple areas, guiding educators and caregivers in creating well-rounded learning experiences.

Other qualitative methods of measuring SEL success include interviews, self-reflection activities, and collective feedback wherein participants can share their experiences.

Is SEL Effective for Students of All Ages?

SEL is effective for students of all ages, as it fosters essential skills such as self-awareness, empathy, and relationship-building that are valuable throughout life. However, the methods and approaches used to teach SEL might vary based on developmental stages, ensuring that the content and activities are age-appropriate and relevant to meet the evolving needs of students.

The Bottom Line

While social-emotional learning occurs naturally in a child’s development, parents and teachers can actively reinforce good social habits in the classroom and at home.

Begin your child’s learning experience with our social skills worksheets, which provide enjoyable and helpful exercises for relating to others.


  1. Durlak JA, Weissberg RP, Dymnicki AB, Taylor RD, Schellinger KB. “The impact of enhancing students’ social and emotional learning: A meta-analysis of school-based universal interventions.” Child Development, 2011.
  2. “Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) and Student Benefits: Implications for the Safe Schools/Healthy Students Core Elements.”
  4. Taylor RD, Oberle E, Durlak JA, Weissberg RP. “Promoting Positive Youth Development through School-Based Social and Emotional Learning Interventions: a Meta-Analysis of Follow-Up Effects.” Child Development, 2017.

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