SEL Education: Fostering Emotional Intelligence at Home

By Renée

December 3, 2021

emotional intelligence, parenting strategies, sel at home, sel education, social and emotional learning

You may have recently read my article on the benefits of Social Emotional Learning (SEL) education in academic settings, where I debunked a lot of the common myths and misconceptions about the subject. If you haven’t read that one, I recommend checking it out here as this article is about bringing SEL lessons home from school. I want to explore how to teach emotional intelligence at home in order to explain what parents can do to foster that education and make sure their kids are receiving the best support possible.

While many children and teachers have seen firsthand the many benefits of an SEL education in the classroom, many have also lamented the fact that this education seems to diminish or cease completely once the student returns home. In order to change that, we need to see increased parental involvement including specific activities done at home, changes in how we behave around our children, and ways to make the home an extension of the SEL-focused classroom. If you’ve been wondering how to improve your child’s SEL education, then this is a great place to start!


Home Activities for SEL Education

When we teach emotional intelligence at home, we need to do so with specific emotional intelligence activities and behaviors that will let our children know that what they learn at school applies to home life as well. Incorporating SEL education into our routines as parents and individuals is a great way to familiarize kids with how they can work mindfulness and EI into their own routines as well. There are many ways we can do this, but here are a few of my favorites that will teach some amazing emotional intelligence skills in the process.

Practice naming emotions at home. This seems like a no-brainer, but it’s something that many families struggle with and can lead to miscommunications and misunderstandings. Not everyone has the innate ability to recognize their own emotions, let alone the emotions of others. By practicing naming them aloud, we can teach our children to not only widen their emotional vocabulary, but also better recognize new emotions. If you are struggling to prepare dinner after a long day of work and your child notices negative emotions and asks what’s wrong, try taking a pause to refocus and say something like, “I’m feeling frustrated because I’m tired after a particularly long work day and am late making dinner today. It’s not your fault and it’s okay that I feel this way, it’s only temporary.” There’s much less room for a child to think they’ve caused your bad mood when you express yourself clearly and name your emotions.

little boy reading SEL education

Have a calm-down place in your home. This idea is such a great way to de-escalate situations at home. This can be especially helpful if you have a lot of children or a particularly energetic one. We can all use breaks from that energy and a calm-down corner or other place in the home is a kid-friendly way to do that. It starts with finding a space where a child can be alone and not be bothered. It can be a comfy seat like a bean bag chair with favorite activities within reach. Preferably, have a combination of some educational activities like coloring books and chapter books, as well as entertaining favorites such as LEGOs or stuffed animals. Whatever it is, make sure your child has everything they need to be left unsupervised. The benefits of this are immense, especially for those of us still working from home. Kids need time to switch off for a little while and this can be the perfect way to ensure that everyone gets the alone time they need. It can be fun to involve kiddos in giving this special space a name. And it is good for the adults to have their own space and for children to see this tool role-modeled. 

Reading together. Alone time is well and good, but for many children this may only last for a short period. Setting aside some reading time together is an activity that will teach the value of listening, recognizing emotions in a story, and strengthening our bonds with our little ones. It’s also a great way to avoid screens and get children to wind down before bed. For ages 0-3, try a Hoppy & Poppie PinkCheeks storybook. This is a great way to teach emotional intelligence at home by making reading time educational and entertaining and building those emotional intelligence skills from an early age.


Changing Behaviors

On top of some of these specific activities to try at home, other ways how to teach emotional intelligence at home include changing our usual behaviors. We need to have the self-awareness to recognize when we’re acting in a way that’s detrimental to supporting an SEL education like having destructive emotional outbursts at home, verbally criticizing family members in a non-constructive and loving manner or mentally checking out at dinner by playing on our phones.

family dinner SEL education

Acting mindfully. When a child begins their SEL education, it’s often during their first years of schooling. This is a time of transition for many children and it can easily become an emotional stage of life. Practicing mindfulness at home is a great way of de-escalating from these emotional moments and taking some of that stress out of everyone’s lives. When you or your child find yourselves becoming hijacked by your emotions at home, try some breathing exercises or for the kiddos, try an i-spy game. I find this activity helps immensely. Tell them to name every blue object they can see in the room. It will distract everyone long enough to gain some perspective and calm down and hopefully will lead to a discussion about these outbursts afterwards.

Taking care of ourselves at home. Along with practicing mindfulness at home, we need to practice wellness too in order to be able to make their SEL education translate into our home lives. So often we get home and the last thing we want to do is make dinner or work out or meditate. But by prioritizing our wellness first and foremost, we give ourselves the strength and resilience that is required to raise emotionally intelligent children. Kids, even young kids and toddlers, can sense when you’re stressed or you haven’t been taking care of yourself. Even when it feels like the most difficult thing in the world or the last thing we want to be doing, this one is an absolute must. Check out this article I wrote on wellness routines and how they are intertwined with developing strong EI skills.

Active listening. Don’t mistake being physically present with being emotionally available. We all get caught up in our stressors, our lives, our mistakes, our dreams, whatever they are. This can lead to us not being in the present moment,  mentally and physically. Maybe ruminating over something a coworker or friend said to us earlier that day is distracting us from the very real issue our child is having and is trying to communicate to us. Take some time to settle yourself when you return home from work or if working at home, leave your work space for the rest of the day. Let go of and put to rest the day’s events, knowing that you will return to them tomorrow. When your children are in your care, they expect you to be engaged with them and it’s up to you to find the best way to make that transition back to being a super parent!


Making the Home into a Classroom

Everyday moments can be teaching moments. Major life events are great teaching moments. Whether it’s apprehension about moving somewhere new, excitement for a big promotion or the loss of a job, these moments are full of emotions. Instead of hiding these things for fear of them being too complicated for your kids, try using them instead to teach kids about how we express these emotions and why they’re emotional times. And try to keep an eye out and observe how your child is doing with all these changes. See how their SEL education and emotional intelligence is developing at home and try to monitor that. It’s another great way you can make the home a part of the classroom.

Role modeling at home. This is no secret and is well covered on this blog so I won’t get too in depth. Think of ways you can demonstrate SEL for your children at home. All the things we’ve discussed so far are great starting points, but it goes beyond that too. If you’re going to try to teach your child about the importance of maintaining your cool and being empathetic and respectful towards others, then they will expect your behavior to also follow these lessons. Take some time to think about areas of your home life that could be improved or enhanced in order to serve as a great demonstration of emotional intelligence. 

Connect with other parents. So often we think that because something’s happening at home that means it’s entirely our responsibility, but this just isn’t true. Odds are if it’s happening in your home, it’s happening in homes all across the country and probably in your neighborhood as well. Online resources like your social circles, parenting blogs, Facebook groups, and local community centers serve as vibrant communities for venting, advice, support, and needed assistance. See what other parents have to say about SEL/EI and the valuable lessons they’ve brought home.


These are just a few of the ways we can teach emotional intelligence at home. It’s up to each and every one of us to try these out and see which ones work best for our families. I chose these ways because I feel they are some of the easiest to adapt into a busy life and can make some of the biggest impact in a short amount of time. What do you all think about this? Is SEL an important thing to bring home and what are the best ways to do so? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.


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