Why Does My Child Need SEL?

By | April 10, 2016

Why Does My Child Need SEL?

Social and Emotional Learning increases your child’s emotional intelligence. What does that mean and why is it important? Emotionally intelligent children are happier, healthier, and better learners. They communicate better, are less anxious, and “bounce back” from disappointments quicker. They’re more successful in school and in life.


Research shows that only 10% of our happiness is from external circumstances such as money or good fortune. A full 40% comes from Social and Emotional Learning skills and tools like self-reflection, mindfulness and gratitude. (The other 50% comes from our genes.) Research in neuroscience now shows that by practicing these skills, we can literally rewire our brains to be happy and caring. And so can our kids!

Research also shows that being happy leads to success… not the other way around. If our children are happy and thinking positively, their brains actually work better. Positivity – just like gameplay – increases the flow of dopamine to the brain, activating all the learning centers.

Social and Emotional Learning also addresses bullying. Children who are bullied feel alone, alienated and without hope. Every day one in ten children in America is teased, push, hit or otherwise tormented. It’s hard not to be aware of the emotional distress this causes kids as incidents of bullied children taking their own lives continues to plague our communities. Researchers are now advocating that programs that teach Social and Emotional Learning be implemented in schools to reduce bullying. By learning SEL skills like emotion-management and empathy, children are less likely to bully and be bullied.

Practicing SEL skills → Happiness → Success

Learning, Achievement and Creativity

Research also proves that Social and Emotional Learning improves academic performance. Children who participated in SEL programs in their schools performed better academically – by a full 11 percentile points – than children who didn’t.

Teachers in these schools saw relationships among students improve, and misbehavior and violence drop. Their schools became safer. Kids also reported feeling more engaged and invested.

One SEL skill in particular, perseverance, has shown a profound positive impact on kids’ learning and life success. Perseverance, tenacity or “grit” is a child’s ability to persist through failure or challenge.

The benefits of perseverance emerged in University of Pennsylvania researcher Angela Duckworth’s studies which showed that it wasn’t intelligence, but the ability to persevere that had the greatest effect on childrens’ success. Stanford researcher Carol Dweck took that one step further. She found that children who believe if they try harder, they can become smarter, actually achieve more. She calls this kind of thinking a “growth mindset”. Through practicing SEL skills and strategies that build perseverance and a “growth mindset”, your children are increasing their chances for school and life success.

SEL skills also nurture creativity. Our interconnected, digitized world requires creativity and the ability to innovate, collaborate and take others’ perspectives for success. Creativity and innovation can’t occur if kids beat themselves up and give up when they make a mistake. They need to feel safe, supported and confident that they can try again, and that their uniqueness is an asset. SEL skills are the foundation that enable creativity to thrive.

Practicing SEL skills → better learning → life success


We all know that good health is largely a result of good decision-making. Whether it’s making healthy food choices or choosing not to abuse alcohol, our children need to have the strength and decision-making skills to stand up for what they believe in and make the best choices. Social and Emotional Learning teaches kids how to make healthy and responsible decisions.


SEL programs have been proven to reduce the emotional deficits that link to eating disorders, and to help children avoid looking for emotional relief in substances. 2008 research shows that SEL programs helped ease depression in children and adolescents.

Even the simple SEL skill of practicing gratitude has profound effects on health and well- being. Research shows that practicing gratitude not only increases our general contentment, it improves the amount and quality of our sleep.

Research also supports that Social and Emotional Learning has lasting effects. 2012 research showed that SEL skills were found to be the strongest predictors of life-long health and well-being. Longitudinal research showed that children who participated in SEL programs had better emotional and mental health and fewer substance problems 15 years later in adulthood.

Practicing SEL skills → good decisions → improved health

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