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Second Step® Insights

Why It’s Important to Start SEL Programs at a Young Age

June 26, 2024 | By: The Second Step® Team

Humans are social beings. Our ability to form and maintain relationships is essential to how we function in society. It also gives us a greater sense of belonging and well-being that is vital for our mental health.

But healthy relationships aren’t solely linked to personal experiences. They inform how we learn and interact professionally and how we absorb and contextualize information. That’s why it’s important for children to develop strong relationship skills at a young age.

A child’s early relationships shape their perceptions of themselves and others. They also influence how children learn to regulate their emotions and control their impulses. Children who are in control of their emotions and corresponding behaviors are better equipped to settle into a classroom, make friends, pay attention, and stay on task.

The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) confirms that children’s social and emotional health affects their overall development and learning. Their research also indicates that children who are mentally healthy tend to be happier, show greater motivation to learn, have a more positive attitude toward school, more eagerly participate in class activities, and demonstrate higher academic performance than less mentally healthy peers.

Many people acquire these life skills naturally as they develop, but sometimes children need a little extra support. And that’s where teaching social-emotional skills at school plays a crucial role. These social-emotional learning (SEL) programs bolster kids’ social-emotional skills and can help reduce stress, boost confidence, and set them up for success.

An SEL curriculum teaches kids valuable skills such as problem-solving, self-regulation, impulse control, and empathy. These tools can improve academic performance, reduce negative social behaviors such as bullying, reduce conduct problems, and help create positive classroom climates that not only help kids navigate their schoolwork but manage their everyday life.

Children with well-developed social-emotional skills focus better, make better decisions, and are more likely to be supportive members of their community well beyond school.

As the National Library of Medicine reports, people who have gone through SEL programs from a young age tend to have higher levels of well-being later in life and fuel a society of engaged, compassionate citizens who care about their impact on the world—and on others.

Learn more about our research-based Second Step® SEL programs for K–12 students.