Students’ social emotional skills have a huge impact on their abilities to be successful in their careers, post-secondary education, and adult lives in general. Not only does it improve their abilities to build intrapersonal and interpersonal skills, but it also increases both academic and workplace success (Paolini, 2020). Students that are taught SEL skills early on in their lives are more likely to develop positive life skills that help them prepare for the real world (Bridgeland et al., 2013). 


Let’s break it down. What is meant by SEL skills?


Social emotional skills can cover a wide variety of behaviors and emotions.

Such as:

  • Self-control and self-regulation
  • Communication
  • Conflict resolution
  • Time and stress management
  • Leadership abilities 
  • Celebrating diversity 
  • Motivation
  • Resilience, persistence, and grit

All of the above skills learned in childhood will produce long-term effects on their adult lives (Feinstein, 2015). 


What does an SEL program need to include?


School leaders and policymakers need to understand what researchers and educators already know: Social emotional learning helps prepare students for the challenges of the world outside of their K-12 classroom walls (Weissberg & Cascarino, 2013). 

An SEL program that will be deemed most successful will address the 5 core competencies of social emotional learning.

  1. Self-Awareness
  2. Self-Management 
  3. Social Awareness
  4. Relationship Skills
  5. Responsible Decision Making 

These competencies allow students to have the ability to assess their own feelings and behavior. They learn how to manage their emotions and handle stress. Students learn to empathize with others and see different viewpoints around them. They learn to form cooperative relationships and work through conflict. Most importantly, they learn to make healthy choices in all areas of their lives. (Dymnicki et al., 2013; Paolini, 2020). Those healthy choices and life skills will help prepare students for the workforce, secondary education, and adult lives.


Success in their careers


I want you to think about a top-notch employee. What characteristics do they have? What traits would someone need to possess in order for you to want to hire them?

These questions are simple yet produce the same inquiry. 

How did these individuals become equipped with those desired traits?

They learned them through direct instruction in a classroom and via life experiences. 

Educators have the ability to address some social emotional and mental health barriers by creating a safe and positive learning environment (Dymnicki et al., 2013).

  • Students that are taught how to communicate are more likely to be able to communicate well with their colleagues. 
  • Students that are taught how to control their emotions and manage stress are more likely to be able to handle multiple projects or tasks in their chosen jobs.
  • Students that are taught how to be socially aware and respect differing opinions are more likely to be heard in a staff meeting or asked to lead a team. 

These skills that we as humans sometimes ignore are the building blocks to any child’s success in their careers and futures.


School leaders and policymakers need to understand that #SEL helps prepare students for the challenges of the world outside of their K-12 classroom walls (Weissberg & Cascarino, 2013).

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Success in post-secondary education


Working towards getting a degree in any area requires a lot of dedication, motivation, and stress management. 

It is likely that a child who struggled in school and engaged in risky behavior will have a higher risk of disengagement throughout their education (Dymnicki et al., 2013). 

  • Students that are taught self-awareness are more likely to figure out their best learning styles. They are also more likely to choose a major that is based on their interests and not what others desire for them.
  • Students that are taught relationship skills are more likely to create friendships and engage in group projects. 
  • Students that are taught time and stress management are more likely to stay on top of an assignment workload and not procrastinate studying for exams. 
  • Students that have strong overall SEL skills are more likely to have an increased motivation to learn (Bridgeland et al., 2013) thus having increased academic success. 

Having a large repertoire of SEL skills makes students more likely to succeed and attain a post-secondary degree. 


Minimizing run-ins with the law


Why do people have legal issues in their lives? That answer is very complex and dependent on the situation.

However, an assumption has been made that a lot of adolescent crimes can be traced back to problems in their social and emotional functioning (Tolan et al., 2015). What does this mean?

Some students that engage in problem behaviors do so because they lack the ability to control themselves, regulate their emotions, and interact well with others. These social emotional skills are that of which can be gained by engaging in SEL programs in their early education.

One study found that students were more likely to engage in gang activity as a response to being bullied in school (Howell, 2003). These findings are important because research shows links between SEL and a reduction in bullying in schools where SEL programs are present.

Another study found that many SEL programs have been developed specifically to help enhance students’ overall health and in turn minimize the use of drugs, violence, and problematic sexual behaviors (Payton et al., 2000). Having good research-based SEL programs in schools can decrease the amount of student fights and violent behavior (Bridgeland et al., 2013). When these problem behaviors are minimized, then students have a better chance of avoiding future legal issues.


So, what can be done? Take action now


District and school-wide leaders have the opportunity to make a long and lasting impact on the lives of all of the children that enter their care and instruction. Parent support is also needed, however, as all stakeholders in a student’s life need to be involved in their SEL and academic education.

By increasing SEL instruction and support within schools - for example, by the use of an online SEL tool - children are more likely to build positive relationships with their peers, have increased attention in school, have a higher understanding of themselves, and be more excited to learn… thus increasing their overall academic performance and achievement.

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Bridgeland, J., Bruce, M., & Hariharan, A. (2013). The Missing Piece: A National Teacher Survey on How Social and Emotional Learning Can Empower Children and Transform Schools. A Report for CASEL. Civic Enterprises.

Dymnicki, A., Sambolt, M., & Kidron, Y. (2013). Improving college and career readiness by incorporating social and emotional learning. College and Career Readiness and Success Center.

Feinstein, L. (2015). Social and emotional learning: Skills for life and work. Early Intervention Foundation.

Howell, J. C. (2003). Preventing and reducing juvenile delinquency: A comprehensive framework. Sage.

Paolini, A. C. (2020). Social Emotional Learning: Key to Career Readiness. Anatolian Journal of Education, 5(1), 125-134.

Payton, J. W., Wardlaw, D. M., Graczyk, P. A., Bloodworth, M. R., Tompsett, C. J., & Weissberg, R. P. (2000). Social and emotional learning: A framework for promoting mental health and reducing risk behavior in children and youth. Journal of school health, 70(5), 179-185.

Tolan, P. H., Nichols, E., & DuVal, N. (2015). SEL programs for juvenile justice settings and populations.

Weissberg, R. P., & Cascarino, J. (2013). Academic learning+ social-emotional learning= national priority. Phi Delta Kappan, 95(2), 8-13.

Author: Kaldia Racine

Posted: 11 Jul 2022

Estimated time to read: 6 mins


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