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The Secrets to Raising a Smarter Child
- By Inderbir Sandhu, Ph.D


Social Emotional Learning (SEL) - Empowering Children with Superior Social and Emotional Skills - Part I

By Andrew Loh

Some children are extremely efficient in making friends, displaying frustration and anger in a tasteful and healthy way, solve problems in a relaxed way, stand in a long queue without getting impatient, show empathy towards someone who has been hurt, and follow set rules without asking any questions. Who are these children? What is so special about them? Is there anything that sets them apart from other children? These children are the so called social-emotional proponents, who can remain steadfast even in the face of adversities. In other words, these children have passed through a phase of very healthy social-emotional development.

What is social emotional learning (SEL)?

SEL or social emotional engineering is an intricate process of learning various life skills. It might include things like in what manner one can deal with self, identifying different emotions and reacting to them and work in a stable and relaxed manner. SEL works in two ways. First, on an individual basis, it helps recognizing human emotions and master various ways in which they could be managed and organized in a seamless manner. While dealing with others like peers and family members, it could help develop a sense of empathy and sympathy and foster positive relationships. In addition, SEL is an invaluable tool to survive in a world that is full of cut throat competition.

SEL or social emotional intelligence has its roots in Daniel Goleman's legendary work on emotional intelligence in humans. In fact, this scholar published a book named " Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ", which eventually became a world bestseller on the concept of emotional and social intelligence.

SEL is a comprehensive concept that encompasses a series of skills that are related to social development. In combination, either in full or part, they could enhance a child's ability to boost social and survival skills. Some of these skills are listed below. Various suggestions and tips are also given to master individual skills.

Identifying emotions that occur within and in others.

This is perhaps the basic concept of SEL as someone should be able to accept that emotions exist both within and in others before learning and mastering the art of SEL. Emotions are intricate tools to express one's personality. Emotions could be good for body and mind. They could even break up the psyche of a person. Hence, emotions should be handled and managed properly. This necessitates a person to acquire the mastery of recognizing emotions within self and in others.


  • Parents may need to tell their children more about emotions and how they might occur. Tell them in brief why emotions are important while expressing their personalities.

  • Describe about different emotions like happiness, joy, sadness, anger, frustration, disappointment and depression.

  • Use keywords while defining different emotions. Some of them are “positive”, “negative”, “good”, “bad”, “inferior”, “thoughts”, “sympathy” and “empathy'.

Managing extreme emotions that are positive and negative

Emotions could be both positive and negative. While positive emotions trigger happiness and joy, negatives one might induce sadness, grief, anger and frustration. Both are common among humans and none of them can exist without the other. Children should know how to handle these two extreme emotions. An absence of handling skills might lead to depression and a series of other mental problems.


  • Let children cry and shed tears if they are under extreme emotions.

  • Letting out deep feelings is always good. For example, shouting with joy is a sign of happiness and it lets out a positive emotion.

  • Anger and frustration are natural for children. Let them express these negative emotions too. However, parents may need to try to control them because they are negative and counterproductive in nature.

  • Give some time in a day to understand emotions and act according to their merits. While getting good grades can lead to good emotions, bad grades could lead to anger, disappointment and frustration. Parents may need to convince their children why failures are good for them and in what manner they can use an instance of failure as a stepping stone for future success.

Identifying inherent strengths and weaknesses

Every child has his own strengths and weaknesses. Identifying and knowing them would help the child to manage emotions and social skills in a better manner. For example, children should know that a stable and strong mind will help them remain composed during crisis and cross though times of difficulties with least effects. On the other hand, a child might have a weakness of retreating into shell as soon as a crisis breaks out.


  • Study your children's behavior and try to identify their strengths and weaknesses.

  • If you find some strength tell your children that they are very lucky to have these qualities.

  • If you find some weaknesses, list them and try to mentor children to come out of those weaknesses. For example, you can tell that “look here, this is your weakness and I noticed it sometime back. I will help you to overcome those weaknesses”. Alternatively, you may also tell them “if you do these things, you can easily overcome any type of problems”.

Developing listening and communicating skills to better manage emotions

Most people hide their emotions and never express them so that they can feel fresh and relaxed. Our mind is an efficient tool to express all types of emotions. However, hiding or suppressing might be counterproductive. It is imperative that children should develop stronger listening and communicating skills to streamline social and emotional learning process. Listening to others would help your child develop both sympathy and empathy.


  • Parents should remember one simple thing. Listening is always good! Teach this basic axiom to your children. Action should start from your side. Listen to them attentively when they are talking to you. Once they finish talking, you can give them your suggestions. When you repeat this procedure for some days, children might come to know that you are actually listening to them!

  • Teach them the importance of listening other peoples' opinions and expressions. This shows that you are concerned towards others. Show them how listening can make them understand other's problems. Some keywords that you should use are “tell me that again”, “please go on”, “I want to hear and understand your problems” and “I am listening to you”. Make sure that children use these keywords, when they are listening to other people.

Recognizing other's emotions, understanding their personal perspectives and helping them

Not all children are similar. Some of them are fickle minded, emotionally weak and fragile. Such children need help and mentoring. A child is emotionally strong and stable might have all the qualities required to show both empathy and sympathy towards those children who actually need them. Children should understand their peers' emotions and try to understand their perspectives. You can continue to read more in Social Emotional Learning (SEL) - Empowering Children with Superior Social and Emotional Skills - Part II.


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