An Introduction to Social Emotional Learning (SEL)

Social Emotional Learning is an approach that aims to teach children the skills they need to understand and manage their emotions and build positive relationships with others. All our experiences shape the way we behave, feel, and think. To help process past experiences and manage present and future experiences, we need to build awareness and strategies that are in line with what the individual needs.

What is social-emotional learning?

Social Emotional Learning or SEL is an approach that aims to teach children the skills and knowledge they need to understand and manage their emotions, build positive relationships with others, and make responsible decisions. SEL focuses on the development of five core competencies:

  1. Self-awareness: Understanding one’s emotions, strengths, and weaknesses
  2. Self-regulation: Managing one’s emotions, thoughts, and behaviours in a constructive way
  3. Social awareness: Understanding and showing respect and sensitivity to others’ emotions and perspectives
  4. Relationship skills: Building and maintaining positive relationships with others, resolving conflicts, and communicating effectively 
  5. Responsible decision-making: Making responsible and ethical choices based on one’s values and goals
What are the factors that affect social and emotional well-being?

Social and emotional well-being is influenced by a variety of factors, which include the following:

  1. Relationships: Positive relationships with family, friends, and peers can contribute to social and emotional well-being, while negative or strained relationships can have the opposite effect.
  1. Environment: A supportive and safe environment is important in allowing an individual to express, ask, and grow their social and emotional well-being. 
  1. Genetics: Genetic factors play a role in determining an individual’s social and emotional disposition.
  1. Life experiences: Family dynamics or traumatic experiences, such as abuse, neglect, or exposure to violence, can harm social and emotional well-being, while positive experiences, such as opportunities for personal growth and development, can have a positive impact.
  1. Culture and community: Cultural and community norms, values, and traditions can also influence social and emotional well-being, as they shape an individual’s beliefs, attitudes, and behaviours.
  1. Personal factors: Factors such as self-esteem, resilience, and coping skills can also contribute to social and emotional well-being. 
  1. Stress: Chronic stress can damage an individual’s emotional and social well-being, leading to anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues.
  1. Nutrition & Sleep: A healthy diet and lifestyle can support good mental health, while poor nutrition can have negative effects.
  1. Physical activity: Regular physical exercise can help to maintain emotional and social well-being.
Recognising when your child or teen needs help

Recognising the need for SEL in children and teenagers can involve observing specific signs that they may exhibit, such as:

  1. Difficulty managing emotions and expressing feelings
  2. Aggressive behaviour towards others, including bullying or physical fights
  3. High levels of anxiety or worry with going to school or being in social settings
  4. Weak emotional connections to peers or adults
  5. Poor academic performance
  6. Frequent absences from school or failure to participate in school activities
  7. Isolation or infrequent participation in social activities


In addition to these signs, some children and teens may have experienced traumatic events or lived through chronic stress that can impact social and emotional well-being. Therefore, it is important to recognize the unique needs of each individual and provide intervention that can help support their social-emotional growth. By working on social-emotional skills, individuals can be helped to navigate the complexities of the world around them and build a foundation of skills that can support them in their personal and academic lives.

This article was written by Ravinder Kaur Sidhu, our Learning Support Lead for Social Emotional Learning.

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