Child & Family Development Child & Family Development

November 9, 2023

What is SEL?

By: Taylor Hoover, LMHCA

SEL or social and emotional learning is a necessary part of a child’s development. SEL is the process through which your child develops into an emotionally intelligent individual with the ability to navigate the world around them. There are 5 core competencies that are learned and practiced through social and emotional learning. These are: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision making. Each competency builds upon itself for development into a well-rounded individual.


The ability to identify our own thoughts and emotions and additionally, understand how our thoughts and emotions influence our behaviors.


The skill of controlling our thoughts, emotions and behaviors. An example of using self-management is reframing our thinking or perspective.

Social awareness:

The ability to understand others or take others’ perspectives. To be sufficient in this competency, we must be aware of not only their own social norms, but the social norms of others.

Relationship Skills:

When developing relationship skills, we learn how to establish healthy and supportive connections with others. We also learn how to navigate conflict that may occur in relationships.

Responsible decision-making:

The ability to make thoughtful and productive choices about our personal behaviors and interactions with others.

Social and emotional learning in therapy is very impactful! Through SEL, therapists help your child recognize what emotions feel like in their body, making it easier to identify their emotions. They explore useful ways to deal with uncomfortable emotions, using breathing exercises or progressive muscle relaxation techniques, and many others strategies. Therapists even foster empathy by challenging your child to view situations from a different perspective. Improvements that you many see through social and emotional learning are reduction in negative social behaviors, improved academics, and a more confident child.

The positive outcomes of social and emotional learning can amplify when it extends into the home. A fun way to start incorporating SEL into the home is through the activity “Who am I right now?” The goal of this activity is to build your child’s self-awareness and help them identify their strengths. To play, all you will need are index cards. Use the index cards to draw pictures or write words of your child doing something positive. Also assist your child in completing their own cards, helping them brainstorm. To help your child come up with ideas, comment on positive behaviors that you see. For example, “I saw that you wanted to be a helper with your younger sibling. Let’s talk about what kind of person you’re being right now. You are being a caring person and thinking of others.” For this activity it is important to focus on positive behaviors and refrain from targeting negative behaviors that you would like to see improved.  

At Child and Family Development, I provide an integrated therapeutic approach utilizing play therapy in conjunction with cognitive behavioral therapy and social and emotional learning. Through my practice, I empower your child to explore their feelings through play and teach your child how to reframe a negative mindset. Through this integrated approach your child will feel empowered, improve their self-confidence, and gain coping skills to manage emotions.