It's About Childhood & Family, Inc.

A Central New York Not-for-Profit Agency Providing
Mental Health Services for Children & Families


Social-Emotional Learning & Development (SEL)

Part of the mission through the Inner Wealth Initiative is to establish social and emotional learning (SEL) as an essential part of the home and school settings. We envision a world where families, schools, and communities work together to inspire our children's development of life-long healthy habits. For example, children who are self-aware, caring, and connected to others as well as responsible in their decision-making. In this vision, or goal is to foster the inner strength of all children, including their social-emotional health and wellness.

What is social and emotional learning (SEL)?

SEL is the process through which children and adults acquire the knowledge, attitudes, and skills they need to recognize and manage their emotions, demonstrate caring and concern for others, establish positive relationships, make responsible decisions, and handle challenging situations constructively. Although SEL is not a program, many available programs provide instruction in and opportunities to practice, apply, and be recognized for using SEL skills. Competence in the use of SEL skills is promoted in the context of safe and supportive school, family, and community learning environments in which children feel valued and respected and connected to and engaged in learning. SEL is fundamental not only to children's social and emotional development but also to their health, ethical development, citizenship, motivation to achieve, and academic learning as well. (Elias et al., 1997, and CASEL, Safe and Sound, 2005)

According to CASEL (Collaborative to Advance Social and Emotional Learning), socially and emotionally competent children and youth are skilled in five core areas: 

  1. Self-awareness 
    They are able to recognize their emotions, describe their interests and values, and accurately assess their strengths. 

    They have a well-grounded sense of self-confidence and hope for the future.
  2. Self-management 
    They are able to manage stress, control impulses, and persevere in overcoming obstacles. 

    They can set and monitor progress toward the achievement of personal and academic goals and express their emotions appropriately in a wide range of situations.
  3. Social awareness 
    They are able to take the perspective of and empathize with others and recognize and appreciate individual and group similarities and differences. 

    They are able to seek out and appropriately use family, school, and community resources.
  4. Relationship skills 
    They can establish and maintain healthy and rewarding relationships based on cooperation. 

    They resist inappropriate social pressure; constructively prevent, manage, and resolve interpersonal conflict; and seek and provide help when needed.
  5. Responsible decision-making 
    In making decisions, they consider ethical standards, safety concerns, appropriate social norms, respect for others, and the likely consequences of various courses of action. 

    They apply these decision-making skills in academic and social situations and are motivated to contribute to the well-being of their schools and communities.

Seven Chracter Strengths as described by Peterson, C. and Seligman, M. E. P. (2004). Character strengths and virtues. Oxford: Oxford UP.

  1. ZEST -- approaching life with excitement and energy; feeling alive and activated.    —                                                                        ·Actively participates —   ·Shows enthusiasm    ·Invigorates others
  2. GRIT -- finishing what one starts; completing something despite obstacles; a combination of persistence and resilience.  —         ·Finishes whatever he or she begins    · —Tries very hard even after experiencing failure    · —Works independently with focus
  3. CURIOSITY -- taking an interest in experience and learning new things for its own sake; finding things fascinating
  4. OPTIMISM -- expecting the best in the future and working to achieve it
  5. SOCIAL INTELLIGENCE -- being aware of motives and feelings of other people and oneself; including the ability to reason within large and small groups
  6. GRATITUDE -- being aware of and thankful for opportunities that one has and for good things that happen
  7. SELF-CONTROL -- regulating what one feels and does; being self-disciplined


SEL in Education: The Nurtured Heart Approach

In education, using the four-tier model, we utilize the Nurtured Heart Approach as a tier-one program (i.e. universal, for all students). In addition, we teach parents the approach as well, helping to build home-school collaborations/partnerships. One positive aspect of this approach is that it is not a curriculum that teachers have to try and squeeze into their already busy day.

What is the Nurtured Heart Approach?

The Nurtured Heart Approach is a social emotional curriculum developed for building relationships in which students are intrinsically motivated both academically and pro-socially. With NHA, teacher/student relationships evolve into a mentoring culture in which students become invested and engaged in the learning process. At its very core NHA creates intense positive relationships within the academic context. While there are many similar programs that promote positive language, NHA focuses on the use of language as the scaffolding to build "inner wealth" through every day interactions. Through first-hand experiences of success these relationships provide immense opportunities for social emotional development and building self-confidence. On a broader level, NHA shifts classroom culture via radical appreciation and healthy relationships thereby creating a safe and connected environment for its students.

Have You Filled a Bucket Today?

Children are able to easily make a connection with the 'bucket filling' analogy and if fits nicely with the NHA. For those not familiar with 'bucket filling' it goes something like this...

Each of us carries an invisible bucket. It gets filled up when someone says or does something nice for us, or when we say or do something nice in return. Some examples include being helpful, respectful, caring, responsible, cooperative, truthful, understanding, etc. The opposite of a Bucket Filler is a Bucket Dipper. A Bucket Dipper is someone who tries to fill their own bucket by "dipping" from others' buckets. They do this by being unkind. However, we know we can never fill our buckets by dipping from someone else's. We are striving to be a community of Bucket Fillers. Talk with your child about how s/he can be a Bucket Filler.

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