5 Ways Parents Can Support SEL

5 Ways Parents Can Support SEL

Parenting has never been easy—especially now. We want to acknowledge all of the time and effort that goes into what you’re doing. Adults, along with kids, experience a range of emotions throughout the day and sometimes even throughout the hour. 

One thing that can help lighten the load is helping kids develop skills to identify their feelings, manage stress, and problem-solve. Sounds good, right?

These skills are part of social-emotional learning (SEL). The good news is that parents play an important role in promoting SEL! So, right now, let’s focus on supporting you. Bottom line: If adults do it, children are more likely to do it. Let’s dive in.

Here are five quick and easy ways that parents can promote SEL at home. Each of these strategies draws on CASEL’s five SEL competencies.

1. Self-Awareness

Check in with your children about their feelings. We are likely to feel swept away by the emotions and feelings that we are unable to detect. Simply asking, “How are you feeling?” every day shows your children that their emotions matter to you. This also helps children learn to label their emotions and deal with them in a healthy way. 

One example is using a “color chart” to check in.

Post a color chart somewhere that is easily visible for everyone to refer to: 

  • Green – feeling great
  • Yellow – feeling okay
  • Orange – not feeling good—maybe sad, mad or annoyed
  • Red – feeling very upset 

"How Are You Feeling Right Now?" emotion chart

2. Self-Management

Once we learn how to label and communicate feelings, we can move to the all important work of managing those feelings. Supporting children to self-soothe and learn how to regulate their own emotions is a lifelong practice. Most important to remember:

“Emotional regulation isn’t instinctive; it’s learned.”1 

That means adults have an opportunity to teach and build the skill of emotional regulation. Help your children identify things that make them feel better when they are upset. 

You may ask: “What are some things that can help you when you’re upset?”

Examples may include:

  • Getting some water
  • Taking a break from an activity
  • Going for a walk
  • Listening to music 
  • Taking a few deep breaths  

Practice using these strategies in times of stress. 

Check out Infobase’s SEL Toolkit, for resources to empower educators, parents, and students! 

3. Social Awareness

Model the behavior you seek. We model behavior without realizing it. Whether it’s apologizing when you’re in the wrong or treating others with respect and kindness, children learn a great deal about relationships from observing the behavior of their parents. So, let’s take a quick look at what we might be modeling.

  • How do you handle mistakes?
  • How do you take care of yourself?
  • How do you ask for help?
  • How do you apologize?
  • How do you approach conflict?

4. Relationship Skills

Father connecting emotionally with son

Connection over correction. Developing positive relationships help us feel connected and grounded in our environment. There may be times when “connection” may be more important than “correction.” If things have been particularly challenging for a child at home, instead of focusing on correcting behavior, consider focusing on connection with the child first. Spend quality time together, and do something light, easy, and fun before returning to any correcting behaviors. 

Sometimes it’s as simple as reframing our thinking. Instead of:

“Ugh, he is giving me a hard time. He just wants attention.”

We can reframe to:

“Ah, he is having a hard time and he needs connection.”

5. Responsible Decision-Making

Life is a series of decisions—so let’s support our children to get good at making them! There are several great ways to do this. One easy strategy that can be used anywhere is playing Would You Rather. This is a great way to get the decision-making juices flowing and strike up fun conversation.

You can ask: 

  • Would you rather be able to fly or be invisible? 
  • Would you rather be able to sing or dance?
  • Would you rather have a dog or a cat?
  • Would you rather be the President or a Supreme Court Justice?

Also, having children explain their answers by providing evidence for their decision is a great way to build that decision-making muscle. Feel free to tailor the questions based on their ages and interests.

Children spend far more time at home than they do in the classroom. Modeling these SEL skills at home is the first step in nurturing emotionally intelligent children. These simple strategies help create an environment of trust, respect, and support. And, they just might make that all important job of parenting a little easier. 

Want more on this topic? Check out our FREE webinar “Social-Emotional Learning for Parents” with Trisha DiFazio and Allison Roeser of SEL & Beyond!

See also:

About the Authors

Trisha DiFazio

Trisha DiFazio is an education consultant for Teacher Created Materials (TCM) and a former adjunct professor in the Rossier School of Education at the University of Southern California (USC). Trisha was also a contributing author on TCM’s Language Power: Building Language Proficiency series as well as Creating Social Emotional Learning Environments. She is passionate about empowering teachers and students around social and emotional learning as well as Culturally and Linguistically Responsive Teaching. Ms. DiFazio holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Lake Forest College with a double concentration in English and Spanish, a Master of Arts in Teaching from National Louis University, an ESL Endorsement from Dominican University, and International TEFL Certification from the International Teaching Center in Madrid, Spain. As a result of studying with instructors from UCLA’s Mindful Awareness Research Center (MARC), Trisha has experienced firsthand how practicing mindfulness contributes to one’s overall health and sense of well-being.

Allison Roeser

Allison Roeser is an education consultant, author, and leadership coach. She holds a Master of Health Science (MHS) degree from Johns Hopkins University, Professional Coach Certification (PCC) from the International Coaching Federation, and is an Academy Licensed Trainer (ALT) with the Academy for Coaching Excellence. Ms. Roeser has almost two decades of experience working with leaders in education. She is passionate about child welfare and social change. She is also a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA), a program that advocates for foster care youth in San Francisco. Previously, Allison served as Deputy Director at Westat, a research organization where she directed studies focused on health and education. Allison is also co-founder of SEL&Beyond, an organization dedicated to providing SEL professional development and coaching for educators, parents, and students.

For more strategies and tips, follow the authors on Twitter @SELandBeyond, contact them at selandbeyond@gmail.com.

Also, check out their book:
Social-Emotional Learning Starts with Us: Empowering Teachers to Support Students


1. Maynard, Nathan, and Brad Weinstein. 2019. Hacking School Discipline: 9 Ways to Create a Culture of Empathy and Responsibility Using Restorative Justice. Highland Heights, OH: Times 10 Publications.