6 Ways To Jumpstart Social Emotional Skills For Learning

We have previously written about Social-Emotional Learning skills, introducing them here, discussing their importance here, and suggesting ways to promote them here. Today we add to that discussion by suggesting 6 practical strategies to improve this critical battery of skills.

Remember: Social Emotional Skills Matter

There is a growing awareness of how social and emotional development plays a role in student performance. These skills can help determine if a child is well equipped to meet the demands of a classroom, if they will be able to engage fully in learning, and if they will benefit from instruction.  Research strongly suggests that SEL can have a positive impact on school climate through academic, social and emotional benefits for students.

A recent study by Durlak, Weissberg et al. analyzed 213 schools with an SEL program. Students receiving quality SEL instruction demonstrated:

  • better academic performance: achievement scores an average of 11 percentile points higher than students who did not receive SEL instruction;
  • improved attitudes and behaviors: greater motivation to learn, deeper commitment to school, increased time devoted to schoolwork, and better classroom behavior;
  • fewer negative behaviors: decreased disruptive class behavior, noncompliance, aggression, delinquent acts, and disciplinary referrals; and
  • reduced emotional distress: fewer reports of student depression, anxiety, stress, and social withdrawal.

6 Ways To Jumpstart Your Child’s SEL

  • Give words to feelings

-How are you feeling right now? Give your child a list of emotions to choose from.


-Where are you feeling it in your body? Your child may feel it in their belly, heart or head.

-What do you think caused it? Help your child think it through.

  • Find your child’s triggers

-Are transitions between activities difficult? Give 5 -minute warnings before switching activities, or arrange downtime between activities.

-Is getting dressed in the morning a struggle? Perhaps use of a picture schedule will help them to know what is expected.


  • Encourage healthy ways of coping

-Use a ‘calming’ jar for breaks.

calm down jar

-Directly teach activities, such as breathing, visualization, ear rub, or calming yoga pose.


  • Brainstorm specific coping strategies

-When I’m angry I can jump on the trampoline.


-When I’m stuck on a math problem I’ll listen to two songs then try again.

-When I’m feeling anxious I can go for a run.

  • Be present and understanding

-Model active listening, ask related questions and keep your focus on them.

  • Seek help when needed

-It’s OK and healthy to seek help from professionals (Tutors, homework buddy, specialists, doctor, counselors, coaches) to teach your child coping strategies.

Two orange men at a wooden table pondering a problem together.

Two orange men at a wooden table pondering a problem together.

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