March 11 is SEL Day, which brings recognition to the importance of social and emotional learning (SEL). This collaborative, behavioral approach is a proven way to promote the wellbeing of a child by teaching them how to identify their emotions, empathize with others, and engage with the world in a positive manner. It applies to children of all ages as well as to the adults who nurture their development and learning. SEL plays a huge role in the class- room, where it’s been proven to boost retention, academic accomplishments, graduation rates, and the overall wellbeing of the child. But it can’t take place there or in other areas of a child’s life unless it exists at home. That’s where SEL begins.

Home is the starting place for SEL, with ripple effects on interacting with others in school, at play with other children, in the community, and eventually, in the world. It’s where young children first learn how to express themselves and communicate with others by watching their parents interact with partners, spouses, other family members, employers, and friends.

SEL thrives when it’s embraced and embodied by adults who are committed to doing the work of self-recognition, exploration, and practice. On a practical level, SEL teaches adults how to create a safe environment for consistent, positive communication at all levels. This includes emotional control, language, body language, tone of voice, physical actions, and more. It isn’t easy, but it is exciting when adults, and ultimately children, catch on and start seeing their impact on others and the momentum that comes along with it.

How, when, and why we communicate has a profound impact on everyone we engage with in our daily lives and that’s why it’s so important to begin using SEL as early as possible. Since caregivers are the gatekeepers to this positive, healthy interaction, they themselves must learn the tools to practice SEL. These tools can be readily found in the community, both in person and through free online workshops and practice sessions, such as those sponsored and conducted by the Newark Trust for Education. Many libraries and community centers host workshops that teach SEL strategies in an open, supportive environment where caregivers can safely share behaviors and get support from other adults who also want to embrace this way of being in the world.

Once the training and modeling begin at home, it’s incumbent on the broader community to do the same. SEL works when it is a shared responsibility among caregivers, educators, school administrators, and community leaders. When this entire community understands and implements social and emotional learning, it becomes a way of life – with a powerful life of its own.

SEL Day is a reminder and an opportunity for each of us to use this practice in our lives and model that positive behavior for our children. Please share in the SEL Day celebration by exploring local training opportunities and workshops with small groups of other caregivers so everyone can begin to understand the concept and practice it together in their own lives. To learn more about early learning, SEL, click here.