This article was first published in the ELS Newsletter, Fall 2019. In light of what is happening in our country, this is important for children today.

The acronym SEL is a current topic in many articles related to early childhood education. So, what does it stand for, and why is this important for today’s children?

SEL stands for Social-Emotional Learning … something that early childhood educators have been nurturing and supporting for many decades. Often ECE professionals assert that social and emotional learning is equal to or even more important in a young child’s development than academic accomplishments.

The increased stress of today’s world along with the social media impact on today’s youth, SEL is becoming increasingly integrated into the K-12 school system. Current research shows that teaching children and young adults how to alleviate and manages stress, they are more likely to develop the skills and resilience needed for be successful in school and peer social situations. Again, this is a belief of most early childhood educators and providers – supporting a child’s social and emotional development will only enhance other areas of development (academic, creative, physical, and communication).

The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL), an organization that works toward integrated social-emotional learning for preschool through high school, defines SEL as ‘the process through which children and adults acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.” Sounds a lot like the Social and Emotional development domain, commonly referred to in early childhood curriculum and programming.

According to CASEL, social and emotional learning is broken down into 5 categories. Take a close look and see how these categories relate to your early childhood program., and how you nurture social and emotional learning with your children. 

1. Self-awareness
Self-awareness is being able to recognize and comprehend one’s emotions and how they translate into our behaviors. This includes recognizing stress or negative emotions, being aware of one’s abilities and weaknesses as well as a “well-grounded sense of self-efficacy and optimism,” according to CASEL.
2. Self-management
Self-management takes self-awareness one step further into the ability to regulate one’s feelings and behaviors. This can include controlling anger, handling stress, self-motivation, or persistence through
3. Social awareness
Social awareness looks outward and is about empathizing with others and possessing a willingness to understand and respect the unique experiences, norms, and behaviors of others.
4. Relationship skills
This category is about creating and maintaining healthy relationships through cooperation, active listening, conflict resolution, and communication.
5. Responsible decision-making
This final category is about making safe, healthy choices that abide by one’s positive and healthy personal moral code and benefit their well-being — and the well-being of others.

Check out the Early Learning Success Power Camp curriculum, it is all about nurturing social and emotional learning, and helping children develop positive personal power. Available at

Why We Really Need SEL (Social-Emotional Learning) Now, available at