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What Is SEL and Why Is It Important?

Academic success is often the primary goal of education, and social and emotional skills may not always be at the forefront of the minds of parents and educators. However, research continues to show that investing in social and emotional learning can actually improve academic success, youth relationships, and mental wellness.

The SEL framework was developed by Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning, also known as CASEL, an organization with a mission to make evidence-based SEL part of all students’ education. 

Learn why our team at Social and Emotional Wellness Initiative (SEWI) keeps SEL at the forefront of our minds when working with youth, families, and community partners.

The Fundamentals of SEL

Social and emotional learning (SEL) is considered an integral part of human development, yet many are unsure what exactly the learning process entails and how to foster it in their children and students. It is considered a strength-based approach that teaches youth and adults how to interact with their peers, support healthy relationships, and manage emotions using healthy coping skills.

According to the CASEL wheel of SEL, there are five core competencies that are interrelated and make up social and emotional learning:

  • Self-awareness is the ability to recognize one’s own emotions, thoughts, and values and how they influence one’s behavior in different situations.

  • Self-management is the ability to manage one’s own emotions, thoughts, and behaviors effectively in different settings.

  • Social awareness is the ability to understand the perspectives of others and demonstrate empathy, including those from different cultures or diverse backgrounds.

  • Relationship skills is the ability to build and maintain healthy relationships.

  • Responsible decision making is the ability to make caring and constructive choices in regards to social interactions and personal interactions.

The Benefits of SEL for Young People

Evidence-based practice is a term that is used to describe the process of reviewing, analyzing, and translating the most up-to-date scientific knowledge into practice. The benefits of SEL are so well-researched that it is now considered an evidence-based practice that yields a variety of positive outcomes for students, adults, and communities as a whole. This includes hundreds of independent studies completed across multiple fields of practice. 

The benefits of early SEL in schools are numerous: 

Academic Success

When children have the opportunity to develop social, emotional, and cognitive skills across different contexts, their academic achievement accelerates. Hundreds of studies have shown that SEL in early education:

  • Has a positive impact on students’ academic achievement

  • Leads to higher levels of “school functioning” for students

  • Increases student engagement and leads to improved academic performance

Mental Wellness and School Climate

SEL helps to foster safe and supportive environments that work to buffer mental health risks. While SEL is not a replacement for mental health treatment, it can help students obtain the necessary skills to develop caring relationships. CASEL indicates that SEL at schools is linked to:

  • Decreased emotional distress in students

  • More positive attitudes about self and others

  • Fewer externalizing problems and disciplinary action

  • Enhanced coping skills, resiliency, and emotion identification among students

  • Better peer relationships

  • Stronger feelings of belonging in the school setting

  • Reductions in bullying and aggression

Improved Life Outcomes 

Research has shown that social and emotional learning that begins in kindergarten is related to important life outcomes by the age of 25, including:

  • Educational success, such as graduating high school and obtaining a college degree

  • Career success, such as an increased likelihood of securing a stable, full-time employment

  • Other key life outcomes, such as being less likely to have contact with the police.

How to Foster SEL for Your Children

At SEWI, our team is dedicated to enhancing the quality of life for youth and families by educating, motivating, and providing prevention programs through social and emotional wellness services. We work directly with youth and families through our community partners to provide free and accessible support services on an individual and group basis.

To learn more about the services we offer or to bring social and emotional learning to your organization, contact our team at


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