“There is no “one” right way to teach social-emotional learning.”

What You’ll Learn
  • What are the five areas of social-emotional competence?
  • How do I teach these areas of competence?
  • What learning experiences or materials can I use at home to promote social-emotional learning?

Social-emotional learning (SEL) inspires learning and growth, for children and adults. It is the process through which all human beings acquire the knowledge, skills, and attitudes to become a thriving individual. SEL is more than just teaching children about their feelings; I could on and on about why this is so important for everyone to experience—if you’re interested, let’s chat! 

Learning about SEL and understanding why it is necessary for you and your child is a great first step, but knowing what step to take after you have this information can feel less clear. Today, I will provide you with some tangible experiences that you can recreate at home to help promote SEL with your child. Let’s get started!


Promoting the Five Areas of Social-Emotional Competence

There are five broad areas of social-emotional competence that influence our ability to be available to learn and thrive. These areas include self-awareness, self-management, social-awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making. The development of these competencies does not happen automatically; rather, being socially and emotionally competent is a lifelong process. The earlier children start to develop their social-emotional competence, the better! 

Parents and caregivers, you are capable of supporting your child’s social-emotional development and can do this through modeling and explicit instruction. The following are suggestions on how to do this, and are just that, suggestions. There is no “one” right way to teach social-emotional learning. Every child and family has different needs, and social-emotional learning is dependent on your child’s social, emotional, and cognitive developmental levels.


1. Self-Awareness: To help your child understand their emotions, thoughts, and values and how they influence behavior across contexts.

Learning Experience:“Who am I right now?”

How To:

  • Gather some index cards and draw pictures of your child doing something positive, like being a helper or kind friend. Brainstorm some other pictures your child could draw.
  • Help your child come up with ideas by commenting whenever you notice your child’s positive behaviors.

Books to Pair:


2. Self-Management: To help your child manage their emotions, thoughts, and behaviors effectively in different situations and to 

Learning Experience: “Family Emotional Safety Plan”

How To:

  • Create a plan for what each member can do when they are upset, angry, or fearful.
  • When I feel _________________, I will say _____________. Then, I will go to ____________________(specific place or person) to calm myself. When I get to my calm place or person, I will _____________________(take 3 deep breathes; draw; read a book; etc.). I will return to the situation when ____________________.
  • Practice the steps of the plan and provide support.

Books to Pair:


3. Social Awareness: To help your child understand the perspectives of others and empathize with them, including those from diverse backgrounds, cultures, and contexts.

Learning Experience: “Turtle Time”

How To:

  • When you and your child arrive at the playground or another place, look around slowly like a turtle.
  • Take turns sharing details about what you see: “All the swings are taken.” “One child is playing on the slide.”
  • Help your child connect these observations with choosing a behavior. For example, if all the swings are taken, your child may decide to go to the slide first.

Books to Pair:


4. Relationship Skills: To help your child establish and maintain healthy and supportive relationships and to effectively navigate settings with diverse individuals and groups.

Learning Experience: “Taking Turns, Taking Charge”

How To:

  • One night a week, you and your child take turns planning a fun night. This could include choosing which food to eat, a movie to watch, or a game to play.
  • After the activity, reflect on everybody’s choice of behaviors. Highlight positive behaviors like waiting for a turn.

Books to Pair:


5. Responsible Decision-Making: To help your child make caring and constructive choices about personal behavior and social interactions across diverse situations.

Learning Experience: “Litter Pick-Up”

How To:

  • Plan an act of kindness with your child like taking care of your local park. 
  • Make sure it is safe and make a game of how much litter can be picked up. 
  • Reflect on why this is an important task for the Earth and other people.

Books to Pair:


Don’t forget, your social-emotional development is just as important as your child’s. Use these experiences to learn and develop your own social-emotional competence—you never have to be perfect to be the best parent for your child. 


Empowering Takeaways

  • Social-emotional learning never stops, but we can set children up for greater success by providing these experiences as early as possible.
  • The five areas of social-emotional competence can be taught in many different ways.
  • Parents and children can develop their social-emotional competence together.


Be vibrant and keep thriving!

This article was last reviewed or updated on December 15, 2023.

About the author: Rebecca is the Head of Family Empowerment and Student Success at SolBe Learning. Rebecca has worked in the field of early education for over six years, with a passion for supporting the optimal development of young children and families. Rebecca holds a B.A. in early childhood education and sociology as well as an M.A. and license in school counseling.



Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning. (2023). What is the CASEL framework? https://casel.org/fundamentals-of-sel/what-is-the-casel-framework/#social-emotional-learning 

Duffell, J. C., Weissberg, R. P., Williams, A., Eaton, P.D., Segneri, M., Carstarphen, M. J., Matheny, R. K., Amador, A., Koch, R., & Kranzler, D. (n.d.). How social-emotional learning helps children succeed in school, the workplace, and life. Committee for Children. https://www.cfchildren.org/wp-content/uploads/mission-vision/what-is-sel/docs/sel-e-book.pdf 

Jones, S. M., & Doolittle, E. J. (2017). Social and emotional learning: Introducing the issue. The Future of Children, 27(1), 3-11. https://www.jstor.org/stable/44219018 

Salazar, J. A., & Miller, J. (2020). SEL discussion series for parents and caregivers. Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning. https://casel.org/sel-discussion-series-for-parents-and-caregivers/?view=true