Most parents with school-aged children are probably now well-versed in “SEL.” While it’s not a new concept, it’s one that has been getting a lot more recognition, and implementation, in today’s digital world and particularly since the onset of COVID-19, which sent many schools to a virtual format nearly overnight. Apex Leadership Co., which has been incorporating important lessons of SEL since its inception, explains what it is and why it is so important in today’s complex learning environment.

SEL refers to Social and Emotional Learning. Sounds simple enough, right? But of course, social and emotional learning is quite complex and a vital part of youth education, especially during these challenging times that have literally changed the way education exists, not to mention the social aspects surrounding the once-normal activity of just going to school and interacting with others on a daily basis.

According to CASEL, the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning, SEL is 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.” An article on the Collaborative’s website states that “Recent research has established that the quality of teacher-student interactions and the instructional practices that take place within the classroom are two important predictors of student academic performance and social adjustment (Hamre & Pianta, 2007; Mashburn & Pianta, 2006).”

SEL Importantance in Today’s Complex Learning Environment

Obviously, this important interaction was largely scaled down if not eliminated altogether when schools were forced to close their doors in March of 2020. But much credit goes to administration, school staff, and teachers on campuses nationwide who knew immediately that a new approach to SEL needed to be incorporated into the virtual learning formats that were being developed. Many schools now provide students with specific SEL resources, which include direct contact with an SEL expert or counselor to help them if they are struggling with virtual learning formats or simply missing the day to day interaction with their teachers, classmates, and friends.

The good news is that parents can help support SEL at home, and there are a number of resources to guide parents and guardians through how to integrate it on a daily basis. The Center on the Social and Emotional Foundations for Early Learning, for example, offers an array of online tools and reading materials that can help parents encourage this skill set in their young ones. These include “Tips on Nurturing you Child’s Social Emotional Development,” “Teaching Your Child To: Identify and Express Emotions,” Teaching Your Child About Feelings” and many more.

For older children that are experiencing the age of social media, cancel culture, and other realities of digital communication, SEL can provide them with a solid foundation of what to do in difficult situations and to help them move beyond the challenges these difficulties can often present. These tools include establishing rewarding and positive relationships; managing emotions; handling difficult social situations even in times of anger or stress; making responsible decisions; and problem-solving.

Apex Leadership Co. is proud to have been providing these tools within their programs’ leadership skill lessons since its onset. And perhaps it’s even more important now to emphasize the importance of SEL in everyday life (for children and adults!) to begin creating a more connected society for today and tomorrow.