Empower Kids with Social Emotional Learning

When we look at ways to build resilience in children, social emotional learning (SEL) is a key part of the equation. 

Everything from showing empathy to building strong relationships to regulating our own emotions falls under the umbrella of social emotional learning, and these are skills that can be taught starting from a young age. 

What makes social emotional learning so imperative is that it can shape how we see the world as we grow, and when these competencies are taught, modeled and practiced it can lead to improved outcomes socially, academically and health wise. 

Let’s explore what social emotional learning is, how it impacts resilience and what resources you can leverage to model and teach the children in your life. 

What is Social Emotional Learning?

Social emotional learning (SEL) is the process humans go through to learn how to understand and manage our emotions. SEL is made up of the knowledge, attitudes and skills we need to develop a healthy identity, meet goals, feel and demonstrate empathy, foster strong relationships and more. 

The CASEL 5 is a popular framework used for teaching and guiding children through five core competencies that make up social emotional learning. These five competencies are:

  • Self-awareness: The ability to understand your own thoughts, values and emotions and how they influence our behaviors. 
  • Self-management: The ability to manage emotions, behaviors and thoughts effectively through different situations and to achieve our goals.
  • Social awareness: The ability to show empathy and understand the perspectives of other people no matter their culture, background or context. 
  • Relationship skills: The ability to establish and maintain supportive and healthy relationships and navigate diverse groups and individuals. 
  • Responsible decision making: The ability to make constructive and caring choices about social interactions and personal behavior. 

Social emotional learning is something that begins when we are young, and continues into adulthood. However, early adolescence is a critical period for SEL, and teachers, caregivers and parents can all play an important role in promoting healthy thought patterns and behaviors. 

Psychologist Marc Brackett, founding director of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, promotes the RULER approach to social emotional learning for helping children practice how to work through their emotions. Practice is key, so children need to be guided through the steps when the opportunity arises. 

The RULER approach follows five steps:

  • Recognize emotions
  • Understand the source
  • Label them accurately
  • Express them
  • Regulate responses

How Social Emotional Learning Impacts Resilience

There’s no question that social emotional learning has numerous long term benefits. Not only do children in environments that promote SEL see a positive impact with their attitudes and behaviors, but they also see more positive outcomes with their academics and skill building.

Resiliency is our ability as people to adjust or recover when a crisis or the unexpected happens, or to endure, respond and recover for something disruptive. SEL plays a big role in our ability to build our resilience.

The greater a child’s ability to understand and work through their emotions, the better they are equipped when scenarios requiring resilience happen. Social emotional learning is recognized as a critical part of developing resilient children, and which is why hundreds of schools across the country have SEL programs integrated into their learning curriculums.

This focus on SEL helps ensure children are on the right path, and provides students in school with the chance to practice the five SEL competencies on a daily basis. This development and practice has countless benefits, including: increased prosocial behavior, better attitudes about themselves and other people, lower emotional stress and reduced conduct issues. 

By learning and practicing social emotional learning, students are able to cultivate confidence in themselves and improve their self esteem — both of which are critical for building resiliency. 

Improving Social Emotional Learning With the RESET Toolbox

Whether you’re a teacher, a parent or guardian, a caregiver or any other role of influence with children, you have an opportunity to model strong social emotional learning skills. 

At Western Youth Services, we’re committed to buffering the effects of trauma by building resilience. To help support this, we offer the RESET Toolbox, which is a collection of no-cost trainings and resources to build resilience. 

As part of the toolbox, we have several RESET partners who specifically focus on social emotional learning. Those looking for resources to help promote and practice SEL can take advantage of the various materials and trainings we currently offer.  

Tilly’s Life Center

In response to the COVID-19 mandated distance learning, Tilly’s Life Center (TLC) has adapted their onsite program to a highly interactive live virtual experience.

TLC has already integrated virtual classes into many of their partnered high schools and youth organizations across Southern California, with great success. When schools do return to in-person learning, they’ll train you to facilitate the program as you return to campus.

Current offerings include:

  • Social and Emotional Learning – “I Am Me” Virtual Program Lessons 1-25
  • Train the Trainer for SEL Curriculum – “I Am Me” Program Training the Trainer

Orange County Department of Education (OCDE)

In addition to providing direct instruction to students through its own alternative and special education programs, OCDE administers an array of programs and services that are critical to the operations of local school districts and community colleges, facilitating professional development, legal guidance, payroll, career and technical education support, high-speed internet access, Local Control and Accountability Plan assistance and approval, resources for families, and student enrichment.

Current offerings include:

  • Building Blocks of Resiliency: Helping Students Thrive for Parents/Family
  • Building Blocks of Resiliency: Helping Students Thrive for Students Grades 6-12
  • Building Blocks of Resiliency: Helping Students Thrive for School Staff
  • Building Blocks of Resiliency: Helping Students Thrive for Community
  • Stress and Health for Students Grades 6-12
  • Stress and Health for Parents, Family and Community
  • Stress and Health for Teachers and School Administrators
  • Building Relationships with Students Online
  • Connectopedia: Networking Through the Network for Middle School and High School Students (grades 6-12)

WYS Ready, Set, Resilience Training

This is a series of brief video lessons on mindfulness geared for middle-school aged students. These lessons focus on the importance of human connection, the power of kindness, finding joy, mindfulness, why movement matters and more. 

The goal of each of these lessons is to help learn to build resilience. That means being able to RESET when dealing with a difficult situation or having a bad day. The more children build up their resilience, the more natural it feels to move from feeling stress to being calm.

Current offerings include: 

  • Ready, Set, Be Kind
  • Ready, Set, Connect
  • Ready, Set, Move
  • Ready, Set, Rest
  • Ready, Set, Spread Gratitude
  • Ready, Set, RESET

Social Emotional Learning is a Work in Progress

Social emotional learning is a process that starts when children are very young and continues through to adulthood. By focusing on teaching SEL in the formative years, modeling the appropriate behaviors and capitalizing on opportunities to practice, you can help children build resilience. 

Having helpful resources, like the RESET toolbox, will give you the tools to guide children towards better self-esteem and being more equipped to take on the challenges life throws at them. 

Want to learn more about the RESET Toolbox and how to build resilient kids?

Visit the RESET Toolbox website to find out how you can register for WYS and partner trainings and get access to all the resources you need. 

Lorry Leigh Belhumeur, Ph.D.
Chief Executive Officer
Western Youth Services

If you believe that you or a loved one is currently at high-risk, call 911 or immediately transport them to a hospital. Do not attempt to access emergency mental health care through this website.

Take a Tour of the RESET Toolbox – a collection of trainings and resources to build resilience Sign up now!